Clark County Sheriff's Office: Don't drive drunk - or stoned

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. - The upcoming holiday season has law enforcement officials issuing annual reminders for drivers to stay sober behind the wheel.

But in Washington, there's a new wrinkle to the warning this year: don't drive stoned, either.

Washington voters approved the legalization of marijuana in the most recent election. Marijuana becomes legal for use by adults over 21 years old on Dec. 6. How legalization will square with federal laws where it remains illegal is still at issue.

In  a press release titled "Impaired Driving Either By Alcohol Or Drugs Is Illegal," the Clark County Sheriff's Office said they will be adding extra patrols from Nov. 21 to Jan. 1 to look for drivers under the influence.

"We are encouraging everyone to do their part this holiday season to prevent a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel. Call a cab. Call a friend. Take their keys," the release read.

While roadside sobriety tests and breathalyzer results are common to test suspected drunk drivers, the sheriff's office did not detail in their press release how they would determine if someone is too impaired to drive by marijuana or some other substance other than alcohol.

Marion Swendsen with Clark County Target Zero Traffic Safety said specially-trained officers, known as Drug Recognition Experts, or DRE officers, can be called to to the scene to make a determination if someone is under the influence of something other than alcohol.

"A DRE evaluation can show that the person is impaired even if they don't have any alcohol on board," Swendsen said.  "A blood draw is the only way to show the amount of THC that someone has on board, but a DRE evaluation can be used in court for a DUI charge even if the person refuses the blood draw."

Additionally, Swendsen said if a person shows impairment but no use of alcohol, then "then implied consent for blood kicks in and a person is required to submit to a blood test or lose their license for a refusal, which can be used in court against them."

Swendsen said that officers give all drivers suspected of being under the influence of any substance a run through field sobriety tests first.

She said the Clark County Sheriff's Office had about 10 DRE officers and the Washington State Patrol also employed a number of troopers with similar training.