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California Legislature

Lawmakers support creating task force to study impaired driving by marijuana users

Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco in April. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)
Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco in April. (Haven Daley / Associated Press)

The California Highway Patrol would form a task force to develop methods for identifying when drivers are impaired by marijuana or prescription drugs, under legislation that moved forward on Tuesday.

The study would also look at technology for measuring impairment by the chemical THC, under legislation proposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn. and introduced by Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale).

“The bill, AB 6, is a reasonable approach forward to address our fight against drugged driving,” said Lackey, a retired CHP sergeant. “The urgency of this should be very clear to all of us.”

The task force would include law enforcement officials, a prosecutor, physician, drug researcher, defense attorney and representatives of the marijuana industry.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended the bill after hearing emotional testimony from Antelope Valley teacher Karen Smith about how her husband was killed by a car driven by a young man who had allegedly used marijuana. She said she had to push hard to get blood tests analyzed.

“What has happened here is a disgrace, and no other family should have to go through it,” she told the panel.

Proposition 64, which California voters approved in November to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, provides funds for studies on the impact of cannabis on driving and to develop training and procedures for identifying drugged driving.

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