MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Medical marijuana users helped police officers better understand how the drug can lead to driver impairment on Thursday.
The Montgomery County Department of Police held its cannabis intoxication impaired driving lab at the public safety training academy. It was the fifth year for the program which provides officers an opportunity to see first-hand how a driver under the influence of cannabis operates.
Cat Szafran said she never imagined she would be smoking cannabis in a room filled with police officers, but she thinks it’s important to be involved. Szafran said she uses marijuana for anxiety and pain.
“I’ve had friends say to me you could do that?” said Szafran. “Are you worried to get in trouble? I don’t think that’s the issue, honestly. I’m more worried if they don’t know what’s going on.”
On July 1, 2023, recreational marijuana becomes legal in Maryland, so Montgomery County police want to be prepared for an anticipated increase in the number of intoxicated driving cases the change in legislation will bring. Unlike with alcohol, there’s no nationwide standard set to know if someone is impaired due to cannabis.
“I think what we’re going to see with the legalization is we’re going to see an increase in impaired drivers and especially under the influence of cannabis,” said Brian Dillman, Division Director of the Traffic Operation Division.
For safety reasons, Montgomery County police provided transportation for its volunteers. Once the volunteers arrived, they were screened, and their vitals assessed. Next, they smoked for 30 minutes and gave a saliva sample. Then, police conducted field sobriety tests. The process allows law enforcement to compare results with the observations of officers, which then allows them to make more informed decisions once they come across drivers impaired by cannabis.
The program also offers a chance for members of the cannabis community and law enforcement to improve their relationship.
“If it helps to shape any legislative policy and relationship forming between police and community, i feel like it’s definitely helpful,” said Khiry Maxberry.