Minnesota Launches Pilot Program for Roadside Saliva Drug Tests

November 28, 2023 · High Times

The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) announced its pilot project to launch a cannabis saliva test for determining impairment in drivers.

According to OTS Director Mike Hanson, the test is being designed to determine recent impairment. “We’re not looking to find somebody who used 10 days or 14 days ago. We’re looking for somebody who used within the last couple of hours,” Hanson explained.

The saliva test would screen for a total of six substances, such as cannabis and opioids, using both the SoToxa Mobile Test System and Dräger DrugTest 5000. Both devices have already previously been tested in other states.

The state’s 320 Drug Recognition Evaluators (DREs), who have been trained to recognize signs of impairment due to substances other than alcohol, will be given saliva devices for the program. A majority of the DREs are local law enforcement officers, but one-third are state troopers. “We’re going to get a good sampling not only in metro areas, but also in the greater Minnesota areas that will give us an idea of how prevalent drug impaired driving is on our roads,” Hanson continued.

In practice, if an officer comes across a driver who appears to be impaired, they will ask them to perform field sobriety tests, followed by swabbing their mouth, if they consent. “That swab is then inserted into a cartridge, and that cartridge then is inserted into the instrument. Roughly five minutes later, you will get your result,” Hanson said. A news report from Fox 9 explained that individuals won’t be arrested or have their licenses revoked while participating.

The pilot program will help the department gather data by using participants who provide voluntary saliva samples. The goal is to determine the presence of one of the six substances, not the varying levels of a substance within a person’s body. “If you have Delta 9 in your system, that tells the officer [the driver] used recently, and that very likely is the cause of their impairment, or part of their impairment if they’re using other things in in conjunction with that cannabis,” Hanson said.

Data shows that between 2013-2017, there were 8,069 incidents involving intoxicated drivers, and between 2018-2022, that number increased to 15,810.

The goal is that OTS will gather data and submit it to the Minnesota Legislature in fall 2024, with the goal of asking lawmakers to update state law to allow the devices to be used by law enforcement to arrest impaired drivers.

In Michigan in 2017, a similar Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot Program was launched with the use of a device called an Alere DDS2, which tests for amphetamine, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and opiates. Between 2019-2020, Phase II of the program was launched. Similar roadside saliva tests have been implemented in Alabama and Kansas as well.

Following adult-use cannabis legalization in Canada in 2018, the country altered its laws to permit the use of roadside saliva drug tests with the Dräger DrugTest 5000. In 2019, the Canadian government approved the SoToxa Mobile Test System for use by law enforcement. 

The Victorian Parliament in Australia recently approved a bill to address and implement a medical cannabis driving trial in October 2023 as well. “This bill will allow us to deliver a world-leading research trial into medical cannabis and driving, enhancing our understanding of how cannabis affects driving behavior and informing future reform,” said road safety minister Melissa Horne.

Victoria was the first Australian province to legalize medical cannabis six years ago. “The reality is patients continue to wait. Medicinal cannabis has been prescribed since 2016, that’s a long time for patients to have to wait for a resolution,” said Australia MP Rachel Payne. “A medicinal cannabis patient should be treated like any other patient who is prescribed medicine by a doctor who also provides appropriate advice about when that patient is safe to drive.”

However, there are concerns regarding the efficacy of these roadside drug tests. In 2019, a Vancouver-based attorney found that the Dräger DrugTest 5000 was not a reliable way to determine impairment, claiming that it was producing false positives for people who had only consumed CBD. “We found there was a retention period of half an hour. It was still found in the mouth even though there were no lingering effects in the body,” said attorney Kyla Lee.

Other complaints included that the device wasn’t performing properly in cold weather. “We need to put more effort in this country into finding a device that can tell the difference between something that’s impairing a person and something that’s merely present in their system,” Lee explained.

In September of this year, an article published on the American Council on Science and Health website explained how these drug tests are still not up to par. In a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, determined that roadside saliva tests in theory are useful, but not accurate. “One court concluded that ‘there is as yet no scientific agreement on whether, and, if so, to what extent, these types of tests are indicative of marijuana intoxication,’” researchers wrote. (Full Story)

In category:Testing
Tags:
Next Post

Marijuana lab-testing analysis finds routine THC inflation, data manipulation

The THC potency of marijuana flower sold in legal stores in four states is routinely and systematically inflated, sometimes by as much as 25% or more, according to an independent analysis of licensed cannabis testing-laboratory data obtained by MJBizDaily. But perhaps…
Read
Previous Post

New York Officials Advise Drug Treatment Providers To Stop Testing Patients For Marijuana In Most Cases

New state guidance for addiction services and treatment programs in New York advises against routine screening for marijuana use, an approach designed to parallel that used for alcohol. Some clinicians see the change, which is being implemented following the state’s…
Read
Random Post

L.A. dispensaries openly sell ‘magic mushrooms’ as state weighs decriminalization

Magic mushrooms have been used as a punchline in the past, but now a growing body of research suggests they may be a medicine of the future. While psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics are still illegal, some L.A.-area dispensaries are selling them…
Read
Random Post

True or False, Legalizing Cannabis Reduces Drunk Driving?

Marijuana legalization has become a divisive issue in the United States, sparking debate about how it would affect numerous elements of society. Opponents are concerned about increased driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) instances. However, a recent RTI International…
Read
Random Post

New Hampshire Senate Passes Amended Marijuana Legalization Bill, But Key House Lawmakers Don’t Like Recent Changes

For the first time ever, New Hampshire’s Senate passed a marijuana legalization measure on Thursday, returning the bill to the House of Representatives for concurrence on recent amendments before it would potentially head to the governor’s desk to be signed…
Read
Random Post

Detroit Marijuana Businessman Seeks Leniency in Bribery Case

The lawyer for a Detroit-area businessman who pleaded guilty to bribing a top marijuana regulator is disputing a recommended prison sentence range and asking that a federal judge give John Dawood Dalaly a lighter punishment regardless. In a motion filed…
Read