LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - New Mexicans can now legally buy marijuana for recreational use, but the technology to detect cannabis in a driver's system remains limited in both El Paso and Doña Ana counties.
“There’s really not a whole lot out there," said Deputy Fabian Fernandez, a drug recognition expert in Doña Ana County. "They have samples for saliva testings and there is urine testing. Our state does not recognize either one.”
If someone refuses a breathalyzer test for alcohol, they are automatically charged with aggravated DWI in New Mexico. However, Fernandez said there are no legal consequences for refusing a blood test.
"The blood is like the cherry on top," he said. "But it’s not necessary."
If a deputy suspects a person is driving while intoxicated, that driver will be asked to give a breathalyzer test. If the results are inconsistent with a with a deputy’s observation of intoxication, that deputy will call the on-call drug recognition expert.
Even if a person does not consent to a blood test, a deputy can still charge a driver with DWI based on his or her observation of intoxication. Drug recognition experts have the extra training to determine the cause of impairment.
“Yes, someone could use marijuana the night before or the week before and it would still be in their system," Deputy Fernandez explained. "But as far as impairment that day, all we’re looking for is that moment in time while they’re driving.”
Across the state line, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office worries Texas drivers will bring marijuana back from New Mexico.
“Stay in the state that it’s legal," warned El Paso County Sheriff's Commander Ryan Urrutia. "If you intend to consume it, don’t return to Texas with it, because if you are caught with it, you will be arrested and charged with possession.”
However, he said there are no plans for DWI checkpoints or increased patrols.
“We have informed our officers that these drugs are going to be available to our neighboring state," Urrutia said. "We will not do those checkpoints. By state law, we only do driver’s license and insurance checkpoints.”