Michigan Lawmakers to Debate Roadside Saliva Marijuana Tests

From the Livingston Daily and the Detroit Free Press:

"Some advocates of medical marijuana say they’ll attend a hearing Thursday in Lansing to oppose bills that would let police use roadside saliva testing if a driver is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana.

But the legislator who sponsored the proposal said opponents missed the point of his bills, whose primary aim is to get repeat intoxicated drivers off the road through better communication among police.

Saliva testing is [']not critical to this legislation['] although Michigan’s police officers deserve to have it available, said State Rep. Dan Lauwers, a Republican from Brockway Township near Port Huron.

[']We need to look to the future. This kind of testing has been approved in California,['] Lauwers said.

The saliva tests have not been approved throughout California but are being used in field trials by Los Angeles police to see if results can qualify as court-admissible evidence, said Don Targowski, a Santa Monica defense attorney who is active in marijuana cases. Targowski has offices in both suburban Los Angeles and Grand Rapids.

Under the Michigan proposal, motorists would not be arrested simply for failing the saliva test but only after being pulled over for [']erratic driving.['] Then the saliva test would add confirming evidence, just as portable breath testers do in cases of drunken drivers to justify an arrest, Lauwers said.

[']What we’re really after is repeat offenders,['] he said. The spur for the bill was a double-fatal crash last year in St. Clair County in which a repeat offender drove under the influence of pain killers — not marijuana, he said. The testing proposal, House Bill 5385, and a companion bill together would get repeat drugged-driving violators off the road more quickly by setting up the same notification system for police across the state of pending cases that’s already in effect for alcohol-impaired drivers, he said. 

The two bills are set for a Thursday hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. Those who represent the more than 100,000 state-registered users of medical marijuana said they plan to be there or will send others to speak against the bills.

[']These tests are very flawed,['] said Adam Macdonald of Grosse Pointe Farms, chairman of the National Patients Rights Association, a nationwide advocacy group for medical-marijuana users.

[']I’ve heard this will kick the ability to drive right out from under anyone who uses medical marijuana for up to 20 days['] before the test, Macdonald said.

Saliva testing detects a subject’s level of active THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, said Lapeer attorney Bernard Jocuns.

[']Right now in Michigan, technically a medical marijuana patient is supposed to be immune from prosecution while driving, unless there’s evidence of actual impairment of their driving,['] Jocuns said. But the test would ignore the evidence of actual impairment and merely show the result of a chemical reaction, he said.

State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, is listed on the saliva-testing bill as a co-sponsor. That shocked medical-marijuana advocates because Callton is the rare Republican who champions their causes, they said.

Reached Wednesday to ask why he supported roadside saliva testing for marijuana users, Callton said he must have misunderstood the bill or received a misleading description of it.

[']I would never knowingly co-sponsor a bill like that — I would not support that,['] he said."