ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- It’s been over a month since recreational marijuana sales have been made legal in Illinois and medical marijuana was legalized in Missouri. So how do police officers spot high drivers on the road?
Officers with the St. Louis County Police Department said it’s a 12-step process on what officers see and what medical tests reveal.
Officer Stephanie Ihrig is one of the two officers with the St. Louis County Police Department qualified to identify people who drive while impaired from drugs. Ihrig said most people think of alcohol when it comes to drivers being impaired but she said drug recognition experts say they find more people impaired with prescription medicine, cocaine and marijuana.
So far this year, officers in St. Louis County have arrested two people for drug impairment.
From June through December of 2019, officers arrested 15 people for DWI from drugs.
“We are getting into the world of drug abuse though,” Ihrig said. “Prescriptions, cocaine, marijuana or anything that you're ingesting into your body that affects you and then affects your ability to operate a car."
Each time an officer pulls someone over and believes the driver is impaired, they go through a 12-step test.
“It's a standardized process that goes through a lot of the same tests you would go through for alcohol impairment, but also involves certain things that affect your body like your blood pressure and stuff like that,” Ihrig said.
Generally, these traffic stops start with an observation. An officer will likely pull over a driver if they’re swerving or driving unusually slow or fast. The officer will then notice the driver’s bloodshot eyes, any strange behavior or smells coming from the car. Standardized tests follow, such as walking and turning in a straight line, standing on one leg and so one. Medical tests follow.
Ihrig said officers' concerns are not driving while high on marijuana. She said there’s another more serious threat.
“In St. Louis County, it's going to be the heroin epidemic,” Ihrig said. “I have made more arrests for heroin and/or fentanyl than I have for any other drug in terms of impairment while driving."