Canada has introduced legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana by July 2018. Governor Phil Scott has said that he wants a (non-existent) roadside marijuana test to be available before he would consider signing any legalization bills in Vermont.
Not terribly long ago, the test for impaired driving was simply "are you obviously driving impaired?" Swerving, driving the wrong speed, being extra cautious, taking turns widely, overcompensating for corrections, forgetting to turn on lights, failing to stop, failing to use a turn signal, and so on were (and are) good signs that a driver might be impaired.
If we drivers, bikers or pedestrians notice someone driving erratically, we take notice. That person is probably impaired! We don’t administer a roadside test, and it doesn’t really matter what substance is impairing them.
Police have given verbal roadside tests for a long time (“Count backward...”) to test impairment.
Device-based breath tests for alcohol-impairment seem created more for legal reasons and courtrooms than for any safety reasons. It was simply more convincing in a court to have a standard scale and readout of a blood alcohol level. Evidence! (We like radar guns for similar reasons.)
But that drunk driver wasn’t pulled over because of a roadside test, they were pulled over because someone visually noticed impaired behavior. If they had killed someone the test would not have prevented it. It might be a helpful legal receipt, perhaps, but after the fact.
It works for alcohol, but there are many forms of impaired driving. Someone might be driving poorly due to medications, or lack of sleep, or stress, or texting, or cocaine, or heroin, or pets on the lap, or kids in the back seat, or anything anyone can possibly imagine.
We don’t need breath tests to be certain someone was holding a puppy while driving through the stoplight. They can be issued a citation without giving up some biological sample.
Likewise, if the person driving with a puppy on their lap is really good at it and drives exceptionally well with said puppy on lap, perhaps better than other drivers sharing the road, then there should be no reason to pull them over to test for puppy impairment, right? If someone is great at driving under the influence of puppies on laps, is there a problem?
People are either driving safely, and it is obvious, or they are not. Police have full authority, and a duty, to take note of and pull over drivers who appear to be impaired. My guess is that they do this just about every day, and I bet they find that drivers are impaired for all sorts of reasons, not just those they can test with a breathalyzer.
I’m also guessing that there always at least a few totally whacked-out distracted drivers on the road at any given moment. Part of my defensive driving is to pay attention and watch out for them, using my natural senses and personal judgement. I don’t need a standardized test to administer.
For similar reasons, I think the Governor is putting up an artificial testing roadblock. No marijuana test is required to judge if someone is driving impaired. They will get pulled over by officers, right now and in the future, if and when the Governor signs a bill.
Meanwhile, our neighbors to both the north (Canada) and south (Massachusetts) don’t see a need for roadside testing before lifting prohibitions. Their existing policing skills and tools are up to the task. Why doesn’t our governor trust our law enforcement system?