Drivers under influence of medical marijuana could be concern - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Drivers under influence of medical marijuana could be concern

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 by Krystal Paco

Guam - There's more than drunk drivers law enforcement are concerned about.

At a recent conference, the Pacific Judicial Council addressed another type of driver that may be getting behind the wheel.  

"There's no reason to get in the car if you've had anything," explained California-based criminal justice consultant Helen Harberts. She said there's a new type of driver to be on the watch for, adding, "Any of the driving under the influence people automatically think its alcohol but in fact the fastest rising group is DUI drugs and DUI combination alcohol and drugs."

Harberts presented at the Pacific Judicial Council 2014 Driving While Impaired Conference earlier this week.

"The problem is that most people don't understand that they're impaired because they can't feel it. I never met anybody that said 'I'm going to go out and drive under the influence'. Its not volitional so its about all of us watching and making sure and reminding people and to be honest, sometimes you just gotta get the keys. But everyone needs to be aware that this group is extremely dangerous. They kill themselves and they kill a lot of other people," she said.

But what can island officials do to keep Guam's roads safe? Harberts notes we need to proceed with caution especially with the recent passage of medicinal marijuana.

"So we have to become much more sophisticated about what we understand to be impaired driving. And we do know that once you introduce or make something more available such as your recent passage of a medical marijuana bill, unless you're extremely cautious about how it is managed, availability always results in an increase in use. You're going to be seeing more DUI impairment based on cannabis and cannabanoid intoxication than you have in the past," she said.

Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena mirrors Harberts' concerns.

"It's the holiday season, if you drink, please don't drive. If you take prescription drugs or ingest any illicit drugs, that's now including marijuana, please don't drive. The safety of the community is at stake," he said.

Lamorena says that although DUI's have seen a decline, they continue to be the highest number of misdeameanors filed at the superior court.

"Under the first offense, you have two days at the department of corrections, you a pay a $1,000 fine and you perform 75-hours of community service and you're referred by the court for assessment for possible treatment for alcohol or for any illicit drugs that you are addicted," he said.
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