Date: March 1, 2024Attorney: Joshua S. Bauchner

In recent discussions on legislative measures targeting impaired driving, cannabis experts are concerned about a proposed bill in New Jersey. This legislation aims to compel motorists suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana to provide blood samples to law enforcement—a move that has sparked apprehension among experts in the field.

Critics of the proposed bill argue that it not only amplifies police authority disproportionately, potentially affecting communities of color more severely, but also casts doubts on the effectiveness of the prescribed testing methods. Joshua S. Bauchner, Chair of the Cannabis, Hemp & Psychedelics Practice Group at Mandelbaum Barrett PC, strongly criticizes the proposal, denouncing it as an instance of governmental overreach in a recent article posted by the New Jersey Monitor.

Bauchner emphasizes the necessity for state collaboration with experts in formulating a method for detecting impairment, cautioning against fragmented approaches that could lead to unjust accusations against individuals.

Under current New Jersey law, motorists suspected of drunk driving implicitly consent to providing breath samples. However, the proposed bill seeks to extend this to include blood testing for various substances, with marijuana intoxication defined by a THC threshold of 3 nanograms or higher.

The timing of this legislative initiative coincides with the advent of New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market, reflecting a broader national trend grappling with the complexities of drug-impaired driving.

Despite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recognition of drug-impaired driving as a significant safety concern, Bauchner points to a report from the National Library of Medicine that challenges the efficacy of the proposed testing method. The report also highlights the variability in individuals’ responses to cannabis, adding complexity to the issue.

While some states have established THC thresholds for impairment, New Jersey currently lacks such a standard, underscoring the absence of a proven method for assessing marijuana intoxication.

Alex Shalom, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, echoes concerns about potential wrongful arrests under the proposed legislation, questioning the scientific basis for determining cannabis impairment. He emphasizes the need for judicial oversight to protect individuals’ bodily autonomy, particularly in light of existing racial disparities in law enforcement interactions.

Bauchner further raises concerns about the potential conflation of indicators of impairment with normal nervous behavior, particularly for individuals of color subjected to disproportionate scrutiny during police stops.

As debates surrounding the proposed legislation continue, it is evident that navigating the intersection of cannabis use and road safety requires careful consideration and collaboration among stakeholders to ensure equitable and effective policies.

Read the full article here: Bill would force drivers to provide blood sample if suspected of driving high • New Jersey Monitor