LA Prosecutor Asks Reporters to Drive High

By Jason Beahm on October 26, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a good gig if you can land it.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times was asked to get high and drive a car on an obstacle course. Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich asked him to test the extent, if any, marijuana impairs driving. Why? Because with the possibility of Proposition 19 passing, Trutanich is curious to see what might happen if more drivers high on marijuana take to the road.

As we have reported previously: Proposition 19 would not legalize driving while high. It would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. However, Trutanich believes that if the drug is legalized there will be more stoned drivers on the road. Trutanich recruited California police agencies and the California Highway Patrol to observe drivers who were high on marijuana to compare their behavior against that of drunk drivers.

Lopez, by the way, could legally poses marijuana because he visited one of the state's medical marijuana doctors and received a recommendation. According to Lopez, he visted a doctor about back pain, though the doctor turned out to be a gynecologist who knew nothing about back pain. Nevertheless, Lopez received the recommendation and was ready for Trutanich's experiment. He gives an entertaining first hand account to NPR, linked in the related resources section of this post.

So how did Lopez do? Overall, he said that he did alright, but that he definately acted a bit more loopy than usual. For one thing, after he smoked marijuana, he honked at the police officers and drove towards them, startling them. He said he thought this was hilarious that the time, but perhaps in retrospect, it was not.

Most of the tests were fairly straightforward, such as driving between cones. Lopez said that overall he thought that he handled the test pretty well. Lopez said "despite behaving like a doofus, I thought I could drive pretty well. For several minutes I concentrated on slaloming, parking and then finally the dreaded traffic signal. It didn't seem to me that I was as impaired as I would have been after a few beers or glasses of wine or if I was one of the morons who drive while texting and yakking on cellphones."

But what did the police make of his performance? "Impairment across the board," California Highway Patrol Sgt. David Nelms announced after Lopez and a colleague were put through field sobriety tests.

As "The Dude," from "The Big Lebowski" movie would say, "That's like, your opinion, man."

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