Steamboat police receive additional training to spot impaired drivers


— With marijuana now legally sold for recreational use in Steamboat Springs, police are receiving more training to identify drivers who might be under the influence of drugs.

Steamboat Police Capt. Jerry Stabile said that so far, about half of the department’s officers have received the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement, or ARIDE. The other officers will be trained in the coming months.

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Stabile said the legalization of recreational marijuana sales prompted the increased training.

“It’s natural that we would stay ahead of the curve and educate our patrolmen,” Stabile said.

Not only is it still illegal to consume marijuana in public, it also is against the law to drive while stoned. The potential penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are the same as those for people who drive drunk.

With more people potentially consuming marijuana, Stabile said, it would be natural to expect more cases of people driving while stoned.

Two Steamboat police officers are certified as drug recognition experts. To get the certification, officer Sam Silva and Sgt. John McCartin had to undergo a two-week training session. The ARIDE training the other officers are receiving is not as intense, and McCartin has been certified to teach the 16-hour course.

McCartin said officers are taught to look for the signs that someone might be impaired.

For marijuana, those signs include dilated pupils; bloodshot eyes; a dry, raspy voice; and slow reaction speed.

Those suspected of being stoned while driving can be asked to submit to a blood test. A law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this past May deems that someone is driving under the influence if their THC level is 5 nanograms. Those who refuse to be tested often automatically lose their license for one year.

Since recreational marijuana sales began Jan. 8 in Steamboat, there have been no arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana. Two people were arrested during the same time period in Routt County on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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