DANVERS (CBS) – Police officers sat in a Danvers classroom and watched a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie. It was the introduction to a two-day training class that’s become more popular since marijuana became legal in Massachusetts. Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement is referred to as ARIDE. It builds on the training all police go through in the academy, and it’s the first step to eventually get certified in drug recognition.
“Eyes only. Don’t move your head,” said an instructor, demonstrating the same roadside test used to determine drunk driving, but with additional symptoms for officers to look for, which could signal if a driver is high on marijuana or other drugs.
“At least once or twice a shift, if you have an officer out doing proactive traffic enforcement, they’re going to run into somebody that’s been doing marijuana in the car,” said Lt. Stephen May, an instructor who teaches officers the telltale signs. “Marijuana, cannabis, whether they’re smoking, vaping, edibles, generally it dilates the pupils.”
Other signs include red eyes, eyelids quivering when closed, and an inability to focus on more than one thing at a time. These things combined, could be enough for an officer to take away a driver’s keys and bring the person to a police station for further testing.
Police point to deadly crashes. Massachusetts State Police Trooper Thomas Clardy was killed on the Mass Pike when a driver prosecutors say was high on weed slammed into his cruiser. In East Bridgewater, four teenagers were killed last spring when a driver who was allegedly under the influence of marijuana crashed. “Out of all the drug categories, it has the highest rate of inability to divide attention,” said May.
According to the State Registry of Motor Vehicles, 856 drivers were cited for driving under the influence of drugs in the first seven months of 2018. The state’s Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving is expected to come out with new regulations for new drugged driving policies at the beginning of the new year.