A Test for Marijuana Impairment? A UMass Prof Has an App for That

Article by Hae Young Yoo, Boston Globe

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Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana earlier this month, despite the fact that there’s still no easy way for law enforcement to test someone behind the wheel for marijuana-induced impairment.

A field sobriety test is used when a motorist is suspected of reckless driving, and a breathalyzer is used to gauge the level of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. But there’s nothing similar to a breathalyzer for testing whether someone is driving while under the influence of marijuana.

“You have to prosecute the person based on the officer’s observations and what the officer found during the car stop. It makes it very difficult,” said William G. Brooks III, Norwood police chief and president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

That’s why Michael Milburn, a psychology professor at University of Massachusetts Boston for 39 years, is trying to get his app that tests for marijuana impairment into the hands of law enforcement. He has created and self-funded DRUID, an acronym for for driving under the influence of drugs. It is a tablet-based app in which users are asked to perform a series of tasks in five minutes.

The app tasks include asking users to tap the screen in certain places when they see different shapes; to stop a clock when 60 seconds have passed; to follow a moving circle on the screen with a finger as it randomly changes directions; and to stand on one leg for 30 seconds each with the iPad in one hand.

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