It was a couple of days before New Year's in late '85, when I was arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana. The others in the car were all tripping and I was unquestionably stoned, as a bunch of us headed down to Myrtle Beach for the holiday.
According to Google, it's just over a mile from the intersection of NC 242 and US 701 to just beyond the Cape Fear River bridge in Elizabethtown and because it hasn't changed, you can see what I could see with a screencap. Though on that occasion, I was there sometime around midnight and just over the bridge or the little rise on the horizon, there were lots of flashing blue lights that went along with a training exercise for the nearby Highway Patrol Academy.
I remember that I saw the lights as I merged onto the highway, but at first I didn't think there was a reason for concern, then as I got closer, I realized that it was a roadblock and instead of crossing the median and turning around, I just kept slowly approaching until I was there. When I opened the window, the smoke just rolled out of the car. Luckily for the party, the young lady who had appointed herself Keeper of the Pot had slipped the ounce into her pants, a place the cop didn't search and I was just charged with DUI and possessing what was in my pipe.
Because they had a little machine going at the courthouse that night, our trip may have been delayed as much as thirty minutes. After getting processed, I simply bailed myself out and another guy in the car, one of those who had taken the acid, drove us a few miles down the road, then we switched back. Afterwards, we stopped at the next town and bought a pack of papers because the cop had taken my bowl, but I didn't smoke any more until we got to the hotel.
Since July, the State of Washington has been running a series of ads, some of which they've licensed from Colorado about how driving high is against the law. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission is giving the campaign another push as we head into the Labor Day weekend. Spokane's Spokesman-Review says the local police have arrested 37 people for DUI-Marijuana this year, a rate which if it continues will surpass the number of arrests last year, which was almost three times as many the year before pot was legalized.
Deputy Todd Miller told the reporter, Mike Prager, some of the things they will watch for before arresting a driver and subjecting them to further evaluation and a blood test.
Being high on marijuana impairs a driver's ability to judge time and distance, two key skills for safe driving, Miller said. For example, a driver may pull up to a stop short of the line or go over the line. In either case, they could wait an unnecessarily long amount of time to proceed.
Studies show that drivers high on pot may be overly cautious.
In a traffic stop, pot smokers as well as drinkers often will use sprays to cover up odors, another clue of trouble. Marijuana users may have droopy eyelids and dilated pupils, he said. Slow speech is a giveaway.
If impaired driving is suspected, the driver is put through a series of field sobriety tests similar to a DUI stop. A driver high on pot has trouble remembering directions during the tests, said Miller, who is one of 215 trained drug recognition experts in Washington.
Though there's now a legal definition of impaired driving in some states — 5 nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood in Washington — the signs giving probable cause haven't really changed.
For more information, NORML has compiled a list of each state's drugged driving laws.