A Montana plan to issue DUI tickets for those under the influence of “dangerous drugs” while driving was rejected Tuesday in a legislative committee amid concerns there is no valid test for determining impairment.
The measure was one piece of the drunken driving reform working its way through the Montana Legislature, reports Matt Gouras of The Associated Press.
Another, larger reform initiative that would require repeat drunk driving offenders to undergo twice-daily breath tests at their own expense was unanimously endorsed Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee and will go to the full House.
But members of that panel — from across the political spectrum — opposed a plan to create new offenses for driving under the influence of drugs.
Opponents pointed out there is no valid blood test to prove who is actually impaired by drugs. Marijuana, in particular, stays in the human body for around 30 days after ingestion, and could show up on tests long after impairment has warn off.
For that reason, medical marijuana patients across Montana were understandably concerned about the measure because it could have, for all practical purposes, outlawed driving for up to a month after using cannabis.
Opponents also argued that passing the proposed law would likely end up in expensive court battles.
“We don’t have the scientific data to achieve the goal this bill is trying to do,” said Rep. Krayton Kerns, a conservative Republican from Laurel, Montana. “We are demanding things the scientific community cannot answer.”
Kerns, a self-described “conservative cow doctor” (he’s as veterinarian), favorite of Tea Party supporters and vice chairman of the judiciary panel, has also opposed other aspects of drunken driving reform. According to Kerns, much of it simply tries to do more of the same things by stiffening penalties, and will lead to more expense without really solving anything.
But even Kerns supported the so-called “24/7” sobriety program backed by Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
“I do believe that hell is freezing over, because I am in strong support of Attorney General Bullock’s bill here,” Kerns said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Supporters argue Bullock’s bill will help make sure repeat offenders don’t drink and drive. And, as mentioned before, the offenders themselves have to pay for the twice-daily tests.