A roadside saliva drug testing campaign for drug impairment fell through after Montpellier lawmakers were reluctant to okay the move. This happened even after prosecutors and law-enforcement authorities rolled out a report that substantiated its effectiveness.
Sporadic meetings by the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee have taken place to look back at the state policy on marijuana regarding medicinal and recreational from the date of legislature adjournment in May.
The same Tuesday, the panel received a mandated report on the expected bottlenecks on the enforcement of the testing campaign on Vermont roads.
The final report contained the contribution of numerous groups such as the Governors Highway Safety Program, the Department of States Attorneys and Sheriffs, medical professionals and Vermont State Police.
The controversial report suggested the state commence with green lighting law enforcement to utilize saliva tests to ascertain whether motorists drive with drugs in their body systems.
The report went on to credit the effectiveness of Oral fluid testing. The statement read that the Oral fluid testing is a clinically tested way of ascertaining the availability of the drug in impaired motorists.
The law enforcement, particularly, pointed out that the test is reliable and useful regarding roadside screening test and as a means of evidence. The comparison report of the test with blood testing said that it was a less invasive method of testing and results can be presented a lot quicker. The committee finally urged the legislature to consider and approve its use in Vermont.
In a statement, Gregory Nagourney, who is a prosecutor, reiterated that the Oral fluid testing or saliva drug testing would mimic alcohol testing using a Breathalyzer. He went further to say that the two systems available would be able to test for different substances including narcotics, marijuana, opiates and other drug substances.
However, the lawmakers had reservations about whether the tests would determine that a motorist is impaired. The legislatures argued that some drug deposits could still be obtainable in saliva if the individual used the drug some days before the actual test and recorded negative results during the test day.
Gregory Nagurney responded to the committee’s concerns by stating that the tests have a particular limit and they would only indicate positive results if the drugs are available in high quantities. He confided that he knew that the bar for testing positive for the drug was high, but the product manufacturer can easily adjust the equipment.
He also recognized that there is a division among the scientific and medical domain regarding the minimum levels of particular drugs that must be available for one to test positive for impairment. At least, an established standard for gauging alcohol level is available, which is at 0.08 percent and any recording that matches or goes above that amounts to impairment.
Nagurney also said that they have no jurisdiction in DUI drug case situations. An investigative law enforcement agent would take matters from there.
This saliva test results would be advantageous to law enforcement and prosecutors because the tests, in conjunction with other evidence collected by drug identification experts would be surefire proof that an individual used drugs.
Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, also had reservations about the tests. He expressed doubts about the ability of the tests to make Vermont roads safer. She announced that approval of saliva tests is tantamount to many individuals who might not test positive for the drug at that very moment.
Nagurney replied to Rep. Mary Hooper’s concerns, stating that if the tests are available, a law enforcement officer can make informed decisions regarding arrests and the results and that police obtain results systematically and safely.
John Flannigan, Vermont State Police Lt. seconded the use of saliva testing for drugs on the roadside saying that it would hasten traffic stops when officers gut feelings tell them that the motorist is impaired.
He noted that the system in place is slow and time-consuming as the suspect must be transported to a testing facility to determine whether he or she test positive for drugs. The new system will reduce the testing process and time significantly.
Flannigan went on to say that as of 2016, 54 facilities are available on Vermont roads and about half of those cater for alcohol and drugs. He compared the attention given to murders in the area to the efforts to initiate the saliva drug testing, saying that if over 26 people died as a result if crime, then people would be shouting the loudest.
Sen. Dick Sears, who headed the oversight panel plus the Senate Judiciary Committee declared that he would not support the institution of saliva testing on Vermont roads.
He registered disappointment that they are not getting the level of information they get from alcohol. He continued to say that his aim was to thank the writers for highlighting the saliva testing campaigns and their recommendations to the committee are considered when deciding to implement the saliva test in Vermont.
However, with all the differences clouding the implementation of the test, all the parties agreed that priority should be given to addressing the drug driving problem in Vermont whether the state will legalize marijuana or not.