Drugged driving has increased by 96% in Minnesota, according to a press release from the Department of Public Safety (DPS).
“Drugged driving accounted for 8,069 DWI incidents from 2013-2017 compared with 15,810 from 2018-2022,” DPS said.
This data does not include incidents in 2023, when marijuana was legalized. DPS reminded the public that it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
“It’s illegal for … drivers or passengers to open any cannabis packaging, use marijuana or consume other cannabis products in a vehicle,” DPS said. “[It’s illegal for] the driver to be impaired by marijuana or other cannabis products. Driving high is a DWI.”
Law enforcement previously expressed concerns about being able to detect marijuana-impaired drivers prior to the law being enacted. “Currently, law enforcement lacks an instant, on-site test for cannabis intoxication, similar to a breathalyzer. We also lack a standard to determine if a driver is unfit to be behind the wheel, such as the .08 BAC standard used for alcohol intoxication,” Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs wrote earlier this year.
Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Executive Director Jeff Potts told KARE 11 that Minnesota currently doesn’t have enough drug recognition evaluators (DREs) to properly enforce drugged driving. He explained that the state has around 350 DRE officers and needs around four times that.
“I think it makes it very difficult from a prosecution standpoint because the DREs bring so much expertise to the table,” Potts told KARE 11 in July. “Those evaluations carry a lot of weight when it comes to the prosecution of those cases.”
The cannabis legalization bill, which took effect Aug. 1., does include $10 million for DRE training programs in 2024 and $5 million a year after that. DPS has also launched a pilot program to test the effectiveness of oral fluid roadside testing.
The figures on drugged driving were included in a DPS press release about a DWI enforcement campaign over the Labor Day holiday. There were 1,140 people arrested for driving impaired during the campaign, which lasted from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4. So far this year, 19,035 people have been arrested for DWI, compared with 18,223 this time last year.
This article originally appeared at Alpha News and was reprinted with permission.