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MSP roadside drug testing impacts both legal and illegal drug users

Posted at 9:46 PM, Nov 03, 2017

Michigan State Police will collect saliva from suspected "drugged drivers" starting next week as part of a roadside testing pilot program in 5 Michigan counties including St. Clair and Washtenaw.

The goal is to reduce the rising rate of deadly traffic accidents involving driver's operating while high.  While the number of drunk drivers on the roads have gone down, the number of motorists on drugs is increasing at a concerning rate. 

The roadside drug test will not be random, but if you are seen swerving in the road running a stop sign or breaking a traffic law and you get pulled over ... you could be asked to take a breathalyzer AND to submit to a cheek swab aimed at detecting a variety of controlled substance including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and opioids. Even prescription drugs. 

"Yes, I say crack down, yes! I want to be safe too," says Deborah Ritz. 

Ritz lives in Washtenaw County and applauds the MSP's efforts, but is concerned how it could impact people like her, using drugs legally. 

"I use med-ibles, I use lotions, I use oils," says Ritz showing 7 Action News her medical marijuana license which allows her to legally use marijuana, a drug that stays in her system long after the effects have worn off. 

"There’s no real way when they swab you to tell, when is your last encounter with marijuana, so that’s a real danger for people like me," says Ritz.

Ritz lives in Washtenaw, one of the 5 counties chosen for the MSP Oral drug test pilot program. 1st Lt Mike Shaw says the 5 counties were chosen based upon the number of past impaired driver crashes and arrests. He says the cheek swab will be administered by a trained DRE officer and the results of the drug test will only be incriminating if there is other evidence of impaired driving. Swerving, erratic driving or getting into an accident could subject you to a roadside cheek swab drug test. The DRE officer will also check your pupils, blood pressure and ask you to perform tasks similar to a sobriety test. 

If there are any signs of impairment and you test positive for drugs, you could face charges of driving under the influence. What about those people taking drugs as prescribed? 

"Just because a doctor prescribed it to you, (if) you go out there and kill a family of 4 and you were under the influence, that’s not going to get you out of what your responsibility is," says Shaw. 

The bottom line is, if you are driving erratically or get into an accident and test positive for narcotic pain killers or another controlled substance - even if prescribed - you could be charged with driving under the influence. So consult with your doctor and when in doubt don't drive. 

You can refuse the cheek swab, but you could be ticketed and taken into custody until a warrant can be obtained. Then you will be obligated to undergo the test.