Montana Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Police to Give Saliva Tests to Suspected Drugged Drivers

Montana’s full legislature has passed Senate Bill 13, amending the state’s implied consent law to give police the power to administer oral fluid tests to motorists suspected of being under the influence of drugs.

Senate Bill 13 has now been sent to Governor Greg Gianforte, who has not indicated whether or not he plans to sign it into law, allow it to become law without a signature or veto it.

The bill states that “A person who operates or is in actual physical control of a vehicle is considered to have given consent to a test or tests of the person’s blood or breath for the purpose of determining any measured amount or detected presence of alcohol, or blood or oral fluid for the purpose of determining any measured amount or detected presence of drugs in the person’s body.”

The bill’s sponsor said that the results of oral fluid screens will be used for purposes of establishing probable cause only; a positive test result would be not viewed as prima facie evidence of impairment.

As noted by NORML, saliva testing can typically identify residual traces of THC for up to 48 hours following marijuana inhalation, a period of time beyond the window of cannabis-related impairment. However, this detection window is shorter than that associated with urine tests, which can detect the presence of the inert metabolite carboxy-THC for several weeks post-abstinence, or blood tests, which can detect the residual levels of THC for over a week in the blood of more habitual consumers.

Montana is among a handful of states that imposes criminal penalties for those who operate a motor vehicle with a detectable level of THC above 5ng/ml in their blood. In 2021, lawmakers in Indiana and Nevada repealed their per se traffic safety limits for the presence of THC in blood.

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