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Police expect more DUIs in Montana with legal marijuana in 2022

Field Sobriety Test
Posted at 5:53 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 20:13:15-05

BUTTE - While recreational marijuana is going to be legal in Montana beginning on January 1, 2022, police in Butte they’re going to see an increase in driving under the influence offenses involving marijuana.

“I anticipate we’ll see an uptick in marijuana DUIs, you know, more readily available, people have better access to it,” said officer Greg Blue.

It’s easier for police to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol, but much more challenging to determine if drugs are involved without a blood test. Therefore, officers are trained in drug recognition signs.

“The human body is a gateway to tell you what kind of drug that person’s on, be it their eyes, their heart rate, their body temperature, these are all factors that we take into consideration to help us determine what kind of drug category they would be on,” said Blue.

Butte police only have two officers who are certified drug recognition experts, but they plan to train more officers. Especially since police expect a spike in drug-related DUIs.

“And I’ve seen some estimates in excess in 70 percent where people may increase the DUI, because of the fact they are using marijuana before they drive,” said Butte Sheriff Ed Lester.

Police hope that people who use marijuana, just like alcohol, will do it responsibly.

“You might have people who don’t understand the effects marijuana has on their ability to safely operate a car and they may be more prone to drive when they’ve been using marijuana even though they know or should know, it’s every bit as dangerous as alcohol,” said Lester.

Other key points to know about legal marijuana in Montana:

  • Marijuana is still not legal at the federal level, so that means having marijuana at Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park will still not be allowed.
  • Marijuana businesses will only be allowed to open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Montanans will be allowed to have 2 mature plants and 2 seedlings in their home.
  • Public consumption of marijuana can get you a civil penalty, and driving under the influence of marijuana will still be illegal.