Michigan bill would put statewide saliva drug testing pilot program into law

January 20, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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A Michigan lawmaker has introduced a bill to amend a section of the existing state vehicle code to expand roadside saliva drug testing pilot program from five counties to the entire state.

Sen. Peter MacGregor introduced SB718 on Jan. 15.

Michigan already began a statewide roadside drug testing program in October.

The program allows “drug recognition experts” to give roadside saliva tests to any driver suspected of being under the influence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates. The pilot program, which uses a mouth swab to obtain the saliva, started in Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

According to the Michigan State Police, a drug training expert “receives additional, highly specialized training to assist in identifying drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.”

After conclusion of five-county pilot program, which took place from November 2017 until November 2018, the Michigan State Police recommended that the program expand to the entire state. The program led to 92 saliva roadside drug tests and 89 arrests.

Sample size too small

However, the Michigan State Police said the overall sample size was too small to draw any definitive conclusions on the tool’s usefulness for law enforcement.

“This additional, statewide data will help to determine the usefulness of this tool for law enforcement, as we work to get drug-impaired drivers off Michigan’s roads,” Lt. Col. Richard Arnold, commander of Michigan State Police’s Field Operations Bureau, said in a news release. “Roadside oral fluid testing continues to show promise, and by expanding this pilot we’ll have a larger body of results by which to determine the tool’s effectiveness.”

While the program is geared toward all vehicles, it was inspired by a 2013 crash when a truck driver ran a red light and struck a vehicle, resulting in the death of two people. The truck driver, Harley Davidson Durocher, was found guilty of six felonies, including two counts of operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a controlled substance (marijuana).

In December 2018, Michigan lawmakers approved an additional $626,000 to expand the saliva roadside drug tests program across the state.

According to the bill, the statewide pilot program would last one year.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.