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MSP releases results from roadside drug testing pilot program

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan State Police have released the results of a pilot program that examined the effectiveness of roadside saliva tests that detect drugs.

The yearlong program ran from November 2017 to November 2018 and was conducted in five counties: Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw.

Participating officers who are considered drug recognition experts would ask drivers suspected of being under the influence to consent to an oral swab.

Ninety-two oral tests were conducted, and 74 came back positive for marijuana. However, five of those results came back as a false positive after a blood test was done to confirm the results.

MSP Lt. Jim Flegel, the pilot program’s director, said the testing shows great promise for getting impaired drivers.

He said the test is just another tool to help officers establish probable cause, and those officers can still arrest drivers even if the test produces a negative result.

Grand Rapids marijuana attorney Bruce Block says the program is going too far and infringes on drivers’ rights.

“I would say this is an abysmal failure,” Block said. “This machine needs to go back to the lab.”

Block said he is skeptical the test is reading the right substance.

"I would be suspect,” he said. “If it's showing up as false positive that would suggest that it is reading the metabolite instead of the active THC.”

State legislators agreed to further fund the program, extending it into at least 46 counties throughout the state.

“If the expanded pilot program goes as well as the first, we could see a change in law regarding oral fluid testing instrument throughout the state,” Flegel said.

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8 comments

  • jeffinputnam

    Part of the issue this article doesn’t address is that a positive test for marijuana does not mean the person is high as marijuana is usually detectable in your system for a matter of weeks whereas alcohol leaves your body in a matter of hours. The article gives a wrong impression, implying that all those who tested positive were high.

    • Michael

      It’s definitely not unconstitutional. I’m not sure what your “dui check points” has to do with this but they aren’t doing THC checkpoints.

      This is done with other tests after a traffic stop has been made and signs of impairment are noticed. It is a consent based test that people are free to refuse. Just like a PBT.

  • Derp

    Presence of THC doesn’t indicate impaired driving. Habitual users gain a tolerance to the inebriating effects of cannabis and can drive perfectly fine, as if they have no THC in their systems.

    • Michael

      That’s why only drug recognition experts use this tool. It’s just 1 test in a list of tests used to evaluate a driver.

      Think of it like a PBT, The results of a PBT arent admissible in court but they are still used to verify the intoxication the officer is already seeing.

      • jeffinputnam

        My point is that this test is like a breathalyzer that says, “yes, there’s alcohol in your system” without giving a readout of just how much. If the police want to take people off the road because they’re stoned, and I have no argument with that, just knowing there’s THC in your system is not enough for impairment, they need to set a number. Otherwise, I’ll lose my license for the joint I smoked two weeks ago? That’s not right.

        • Michael

          Your concerns are exactly why only drug recognition experts have these tools. The officers with them are fully trained to detect actual impairment without the use of the tools. There’s only a couple drug recognition experts in each county.

          Just like this test none of the individual SFST’s by themselves can establish intoxication. The HGN has a 77% accuracy, The walk and turn is 68% and the one leg stand is only 65% accurate. It’s a combination of all the tests that results in an officer making an arrest or not. None of the drug recognition experts would arrest someone solely based on the test result detecting THC. The court REQUIRES the officer to prove impairment as that’s what the law requires.

          Even when arrested you keep your license until conviction so you don’t lose your license because of a joint. That portion of your concern is baseless.

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