Officers cracking down on drivers under the influence of marijuana

Local News

WILLIAMS COUNTY, Ohio (WANE 15) — While more states are moving toward legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical uses, local law enforcement is finding more impaired drivers on the roads and are stepping up efforts to keep the roadways safe.

“Us being on the border of Michigan and of course Indiana it’s a challenge,” Williams County Sheriff Steven Town said.

One of the biggest challenges for border counties is the difference in law between states. In Michigan, both recreational and medical marijuana is legal, while In Ohio, only medical marijuana is legal. In Indiana, neither form of the drug is legal.

“They may have it legally but once you get impaired its impairment,” Towns said. “Obviously you have to show a level that is legal enough to be impaired because if they have it legally and the level is not there you don’t have a drug charge. But if you have a medical marijuana license in Michigan and you cross the line it’s no longer legal.

Counties in Ohio are stepping up patrols and becoming better trained to catch drivers high on marijuana.

“There’s really a lot of twists and turns to it and we are trying to adapt to it as best we can.”

Steven Towns has been Sheriff of Williams County for eight years. In that time, he said he has seen a big shift in how his officers investigate impaired drivers.

Before, if you tested for any type of marijuana, you were charged. In recent years Ohio has passed a per se limit (THC limit) of how much marijuana a person can have in their system. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. If it’s below the legal limit, there is often not a charge.

“They’ve made advancements,” Towns said. “But it can still be difficult at the side of the road determining if they are on something besides alcohol how much impairment there is.”

When an officer pulls a car over for impaired driving in Williams County, Towns said that the smell can sometimes give the driver away. Other times officers will have drivers go through a sobriety test which includes either a urine or blood test.

Under Ohio OVI law, the following levels of marijuana are considered “per se” impaired.

  • Blood test — 2 nano-grams per milliliter of marijuana in the driver’s blood
  • Urine test — 10 nano-grams per milliliter in the urine.

Williams County does not have a complete number of how many drivers have been pulled over and arrested due to being under the influence of marijuana.

Law enforcement agencies in the Tri-State area are holding regular meetings together to learn how to better help and protect their communities.

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