Police Worry About Drugged Driving if Ballot Measure Two Passes

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by Marissa Silver

Anchorage, AK -  The battle over Ballot Measure One may be over, however people are still debating Ballot Measure Two, which if passed would legalize marijuana.
 
Earlier this week the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police released information saying they are against legalization and are concerned over Drugged Driving.   
 
This is because Police say they are already seeing accidents.
 
"We've recently had a pretty serious accident here in Unalaska, an individual lost control and rolled his vehicle, fortunately he wasn't injured, but he was charged with driving under the influence of marijuana," said Chief Michael Holman who is the Deputy Chief in Unalaska.
 
And if Ballot Measure Two passes in November, Police are worried they will see more accidents like these involving Drugged Driving.
 
"We have seen some studies done quite recently that says that currently about one in nine drivers in the United States that are involved in fatal crashes are testing positive for marijuana.," Kalie Klaysmat who is the Executive Director for the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police said. "Fatal crashes involving marijuana use more than tripled since 1999."
 
This worries officers because Drugged Driving is dangerous on it's own, but add in alcohol and the danger multiplies. 
 
"If the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and even a small amount of marijuana their risk of having a fatal crash increases to 24 times that of a sober person," said Klaysmat.
 
But, it's not just the dangers Drugged Driving can bring that concerns Police.
 
It's also the training needed, so officers can recognize the signs of Drugged Driving as they are different from those of someone under the influence of alcohol.
 
"With the drugs though, when you are doing the field test, there are different symptoms, different behaviors there's still a lot of divided attention type tests that they use, but they are also looking a lot at the eyes and how the pupils respond to light or how the eyes track," Holman said.
 
"Part of the problem with marijuana intoxication or impairment is there is no breathalyzer that tells us someone is impaired by marijuana, it's necessary for a law enforcement officer to visually recognize various symptoms," said Klaysmat.
 
And in order for officers to be able to recognize those symptoms, police departments will need to pay for their officers to take a course to learn what to look for on the roads.
 
"We feel that it's important that the law enforcement officers in the state get a program that is called ARIDE, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement Training and that helps them to better identify the symptoms of impairment, it helps them see an impaired driver on the road," Klaysmat said.
 
But officers say if Ballot Measure Two does pass then the training will be necessary as they feel more incidents will occur.
 
The Chiefs of Police say they estimate training for officers to  be around 6 million dollars.
 
Ballot Measure Two will be decided during the General Election on November 4th.