SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Even though recreational marijuana is now legal in California, most people probably wouldn’t be comfortable smoking around police officers. But that’s exactly what Edson Villegas volunteered to do.
Villegas took part in a “green lab” to help officers, prosecutors and toxicologists identify signs of impairment because drugged driving is becoming a bigger problem on our roads.
“Approximately 75 percent of the DUI arrests that I make nowadays are drug impaired — more with cannabis than alcohol,” said Glendale Police Officer Bryan Duncan.
The volunteer users took field sobriety tests at the beginning of the evening. Then went into a tent and smoked some marijuana. When they went back and took the same field sobriety tests, officers could see if there were any changes in their mental or physical abilities.
“Whether it’s lack of convergence in the eyes, divided attention issues, your ability to do two tasks at one time,” said Officer Duncan.
Chris Halsor started running green labs like this in Colorado, when marijuana became legal there. He’s hoping these exercises will help Californians figure out how to maintain public safety in this new environment.
“I think we have some detection tools that are out there,” said Chris Halsor, founder of Understanding Legal Marijuana. “There are a lot of questions of do we need better tools out there? The science is severely lagging behind the policy, in part because it still is illegal federally.”
The volunteers were happy to do their part, so officers know they can’t judge every marijuana user the same way.
“It’s different for everyone. If you’re an avid user and you use it more, it’s going to affect you differently,” said marijuana user Sebastian Dominguez.
Like Villegas, he admits that he shouldn’t get behind the wheel after smoking, and he says he doesn’t.
“If I’m high, I don’t want to drive,” said Villegas. “Like why? If I’m high, I just want to sit there.”