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Police-Hosted Weed and Munchies Parties Teach Impairment Testing

Policing training has long featured Wet Labs, in which test subjects drink alcohol and then are evaluated for impaired driving. Marijuana's legal status rendered pot impairment studies less practical. No more, in the age of increasing legal tolerance of marijuana. Enter Green Labs, where police departments host marijuana smoking events (with plentiful munchies) and then engage in the often-difficult task of assessing whether someone is too high to drive, the Washington Post reports. Police agencies nationwide are holding more Green Labs like those in Montgomery County, Md., where recreational marijuana use is legal. “We’re all trying to learn from each other,” said Montgomery Lt. John O’Brien. “A lot can come out of smoking and joking.”

Montgomery's police department started the practice back in 2017, at the urging of Officer Jayme Derbyshire, whose 15 years in traffic enforcement taught her to spot a coming trend. Getting volunteers wasn’t easy. As one recent participant put it, “You have to get out of the mind-set that you’re going to get in trouble.” Specialized officers are often called in to evaluate a suspected drug-impaired driver. They take motorists through a 12-step process, which includes eyeball and pupil examinations and coordination tests designed to pick up a person’s ability to not just move properly but also stay on task. Such drug impairment tests are regularly challenged in court across the country. “There are real questions about the scientific validity of what they’re doing,” said Leonard R. Stamm, a longtime defense attorney and author of “Maryland DUI Law,” which devotes more than 30 pages to defending drugged driving cases. Officers are forced to rely on such observational tests, experts in the field say, because there are no agreed-upon chemical limits like blood-alcohol concentrations. Seattle police officer Jonathon Huber said that leaves officers in a challenging spot — especially given that marijuana affects people differently. “It’s difficult to do,” he said, “which is why we need these trainings.”


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