With marijuana legalization in Vermont just months away, lawmakers are looking for ways to better enforce the new law.
A saliva test is currently being considered by the House Committee on Transportation to help Vermont law enforcement determine if a driver is under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, particularly marijuana.
“What that is, is supporting information to be used by law enforcement to decide whether or not impairment signs are due to a drug,” said Dr. Trisha Conti, Vermont Forensic Laboratory Director.
There are two ways to conduct such a test, using a roadside screener or collecting an evidentiary sample that is sent to the lab. Conti says the state rolled out a pilot program in 2015.
Conti said, “Our accuracy levels are well over 90% and the good thing to know is that the cutoff levels for the roadside test are far below what we can do in the lab so that means we wont be able to detect as much roadside as we can down the road in the lab.”
Currently in Vermont, there is no legal level of marijuana impairment. Under the proposal, a THC blood alcohol content limit of .05 would be set.
“The mere presence of THC does not necessarily indicate impairment,” said Chloé White, Vermont ACLU.
Opponents of the saliva test say it lacks science and believe its far too invasive.
White said, “A saliva test on the side of the road is much more invasive of privacy and bodily integrity than a breathing test due to the physical removal of oral fluids and therefore DNA.”
State Police call it a tool that would help officers better do their jobs.
“Blood has become very inefficient, the delay in getting a blood test sometimes can be hours where we are losing evidence of a particular substance that may be in one’s system,” said Lt. John Flannigan.
The saliva test has the ability to also show the presence of opiates, cocaine or methadone.