It's an interesting time in America. The majority of states (although not Iowa) have legalized marijuana for medical use. Most states, including Iowa, have legalized low-THC CBD, a cannabis derivative, for medical purposes. And, last year, the federal government legalized hemp, a relative of marijuana that contains almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, states that have anti-hemp laws have generally not lifted them.
Although marijuana remains illegal in Iowa and federally, many people still use it. Moreover, a lot of people are under the misimpression that driving under the influence of marijuana isn't dangerous or illegal. Unfortunately, that's not true.
With so many states legalizing marijuana, you might think that the urgency to enforce marijuana laws is waning. After all, states wouldn't be legalizing if they were still convinced that marijuana's effects were as dangerous as those of other drugs.
Marijuana arrests make up over half of all drug arrests in the U.S., and approximately 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession. Enforcing our state and federal marijuana laws costs the U.S. about $3.6 billion every year, yet doing so has had virtually no measurable impact on the availability of marijuana. It also ensnares hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system.
Someone was arrested for a marijuana offense every 48 seconds in 2017, according to new data from the FBI. Arrests for marijuana offenses rose across the U.S. last year even as more states legalized the drug. Moreover, the increase was driven by arrests for mere possession.
With marijuana now legal for either recreational or medical use in the majority of states, drugged driving appears to be on the rise. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward way to test whether someone is actually impaired by marijuana. It's easy enough to test for the drug's metabolites, but those remain in the system for weeks, while the drug's "high" only lasts for a couple of hours. Law enforcement has been seeking a so-called 'pot breathalyzer" that could test for actual impairment, not just exposure to the drug.