FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2020
Senator Cheryl C. Kagan
District 17 (Rockville & Gaithersburg)
With Drugged Driving on the Rise in Maryland and Nationwide, Sen. Kagan Proposes Pilot Program to Help Make Roads Safer
Annapolis, MD: In the midst of the opioid epidemic and discussions around marijuana legalization, Senator Cheryl Kagan seeks to use new technology to address the increased incidence of drugged driving. As marijuana laws are loosened, those states are experiencing a rise in impaired driving that results in accidents, injuries, and deaths. According to a 2017 study by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, “since recreational marijuana was legalized, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 151 percent while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 35 percent.”
It is vital that police have the tools required to keep our roads safe. Technology is available that can test impaired drivers to detect the presence of illicit and abused prescription drugs. SB309, sponsored by Senators Kagan (D) and West (R), is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee this Friday, February 21st, at noon. It would establish a two-year pilot program using these roadside oral fluid screens.
“These devices can obtain results in minutes that are both less invasive and less expensive than blood collection,” Kagan said. “In Maryland, it can take 7-12 months to get the results of a blood test; during that time, habitual drug users could be driving on our streets and endangering our residents.”
During the pilot period, the results could not be used as evidence or probable cause for an arrest by either the prosecutor or defendant. Additionally, drivers would be able to opt out of the oral fluid test without prejudice (just as they can already opt out of a blood test). After two years, the pilot’s results would be reported to the General Assembly. If the outcome confirms the device’s accuracy, the General Assembly could consider legislation allowing these tests. Eleven states have already authorized oral fluid pilot programs. Secondary lab tests in Michigan have verified 95% of their oral fluid screens.
As Maryland seeks sources of additional public school funding, some believe that legalization of cannabis could be an answer. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. “Regardless of whether we join other 11 States and D.C. in legalizing marijuana, Maryland should make every effort to stop drugged driving and keep our roads safe,” Kagan said.
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Senator Kagan (D-District 17) is in her second term representing Gaithersburg and Rockville. She serves as the Vice Chair of the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Kagan has earned a reputation as an independent-minded legislator with a strong voice for her constituents on public safety, consumer protection, election reform, and more. Kagan is active on social media and can be found on Facebook at Sen. Cheryl Kagan, on Twitter at @CherylKagan, and on Instagram at @CherylCKagan.