Senate panel OKs Jones’ bill to crack down on drivers under the influence of drugs

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday voted in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to create a pilot program enabling law enforcement to conduct field sobriety tests on motorists to determine whether they are under the influence of controlled substances, like marijuana.

“As marijuana use becomes more prevalent, the instances of driving under the influence of controlled substances increases,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Just because you have a medical marijuana card doesn’t mean you can get high and drive. That is just as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after a night at the bar. This legislation makes it easier for law enforcement to crack down on high driving so we can help keep Michigan roads as safe as possible.”

Under Senate Bill 207, a pilot program would run for a year in three counties that would be determined by the Michigan State Police (MSP). To be eligible for consideration in the program, counties must have at least one certified drug enforcement officer on duty.

Drivers in the participating counties who are stopped under reasonable suspicion would have their mouths swabbed to test saliva for the presence of a controlled substance. The procedure is similar to that of a breathalyzer test for alcohol.

After the pilot program concludes, MSP would be required to produce a report for the Legislature that indicates what counties were selected and why; the types of law enforcement agencies involved; and relevant data including the number of arrests and resulting convictions for driving under the influence of controlled substances as determined by the roadside tests.

Jones’ bill and SB 434, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, stem from an incident in the Upper Peninsula where an apparently intoxicated driver high on marijuana caused a tragic accident.

The measures now go to the full Senate for consideration.