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Volunteers get high to help train officers in Maryland

Police are concerned recreational marijuana in Maryland will mean more impaired drivers. Spotting them takes training.

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md. — Call it 420 with the 5-0? 

"Smoking with the police," said Khiry Maxberry. 

Thursday night, he and a dozen or so other medical marijuana card holders volunteered to consume cannabis at the Montgomery County Police Department Training Center to help train officers how to spot what it looks like when someone is stoned.

"I think it's very hard to tell how high somebody is and how that may affect their motor skills," said Maxberry, as he rolled and smoke a joint in a tent outside the facility with the other volunteers and officers. "If this is to help shape that, then I think that's more understandable," he said of the training. 

Police are ramping up this training because they believe they will soon need it more - based on stats from other states that have legalized recreational marijuana. 

"I am worried because I know unequivocally this is going to increase the amount of impaired drivers we have out in the streets," said Capt. Brian Dillman with Montgomery County Police Department. 

In July, recreational marijuana will be legal in Maryland. And with no breathalyzer for cannabis, police are using this training to teach offers how to spot drivers under the influence of the drug.

"In addition to their observations in driving, what in the field sobriety test is an indicator that they're now under the influence of something that's impairing their ability to be able to drive safely," said Dillman, who explained the final decision on whether to charge a driver with a crime will come from a department Drug Recognition Expert who may or may not also rely on blood tests. 

As for Maxberry and the other volunteers, after 30 minutes of consuming cannabis officers practiced their sobriety test with them. 

"There are signs that his normal coordination is impaired in a way," said Officer Eli Dunham with Montgomery County after testing Maxberry. But he added making an official determination of his fitness to drive can take several steps. "There is a lot of factors that go into it, and we really have to look at every case as a as a whole."

"I guess if they're able to shape what they're looking for a little bit better -- I think it should help," Maxberry said of his time at the event. 

Asked if he was impaired Maxberry said, "Yeah, for sure."

"Just like alcohol the same falls true for cannabis," said Capt. Dillman. "If you're under the influence, if you consumed it which you legally can now, it doesn't mean you can legally get behind the wheel of a car and drive."

After the training police provided the volunteers with transportation home. 

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