Long Island law enforcement is preparing for the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York, and officials say road safety should be a top priority.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder says part of the problem is re-educating police officers on how to identify and deal with drivers that are high.
"There’s a thing called masking. They’ll smoke marijuana, they’ll be stoned under marijuana, they’ll drink two beers, go on the road. That police officer will turn around and believe the person is drinking alcohol. Test them on the PBT, the breathalyzer, that person will pass. And unfortunately if the officer is not trained, he’ll drive away, continued stoned in that vehicle. So the training is the most important part,”
Ryder says a breathalyzer for marijuana isn’t readily or reliably available right now. That means law enforcement often have to rely on specialized training to figure out if someone is high.
But civil rights groups like the ACLU say that the drug recognition training is not entirely reliable. In some jurisdictions, their testimony isn’t accepted.
State Senator Todd Kaminsky of Nassau says the logistical challenges go further than officer training.
”So we’re talking about millions of dollars that would need to be committed for this process. And we also have to remember that laboratories can’t be left out of the equation if we’re going to have more people be tested through oral saliva tests or through blood.”
Nassau County created a taskforce last week to study the impact of legalized pot. County Legislator and Taskforce Co-chair Joshua Lafazan says there should be harsh penalties for anyone caught driving impaired.
“My generation understands that you do not drive drunk. What my generation egregiously misses is that you do not drive high.”
State legislators expect to take action on marijuana legalization within the next three months.