ANNAPOLIS, Md. —
There's currently no way for Maryland police officers to drug-test drivers on the spot, but state lawmakers hope to change that.
The bill's sponsor, Delegate Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County's 17th District, said the timing for this legislation is right. The country is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and there's talk of legalizing recreational marijuana.
The legislation creates a statewide, two-year, voluntary pilot program for field sobriety tests. If the outcome confirms the device is accurate, lawmakers pledge to introduce a bill to allow its use as the next step in DUI enforcement.
Machines can identify illicit drugs and abused prescription use, in addition to determining the amount of it a driver has in their system. Kagan wants to make the machine available to police departments across the state.
"We have to help diagnose, analyze and then get impaired drivers off our roadways," Kagan said.
The driver must agree to an oral swab inside their cheek or under their tongue. When the collected saliva turns the tip of the swab blue, the sample is inserted into the device. The machine immediately begins to analyze it and counts down the few minutes it will take to do so.
"There is a printed piece of paper that reveals the presence of cocaine, THC, marijuana, methamphetamines, opioids and other drugs," Kagan said.
Jurisdictions will voluntarily take part in a two-year pilot project, and a drug recognition expert will do the testing. Similar programs are underway in 13 states.
"So it's just a screener that can help officers build probable cause in those cases. So the findings should be taken in combination with every other process in that DUI investigation," said Erin Holmes, with Responsibility.org.
Costs for purchasing test kits and laboratory confirmation testing range from $10,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on the number of tests performed.