INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — On Monday, police officers from across Kansas City took to the classroom with a bunch of volunteers who had just smoked marijuana.
Officers were hoping to learn how to tell if the volunteers were not only high, but also impaired.
"We want officers to understand the difference between someone who has used a cannabis product and someone who's impaired by one," Extract-ED founder Ryan Hutton said."And then on the flip side, we want the qualified patient volunteers to understand at what point they may be considered impaired, so they don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle."
The day-long training has never been done before in Missouri. It mostly took place at the Stoney Creek Conference Center.
The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department send officers, as did the police departments from Bowling Green and Lathrop, Missouri
The groups toured the From the Earth dispensary's Independence location, where they learned about different cannabis strains and potency.
They headed to OXG LLC, a cultivation facility, where they got to see the different stages of a marijuana plant from sprout to harvest.
"At first it was like, odor of marijuana or you have some marijuana - that's a criminal charge, pick them up and put them in jail," KCPD DUI Enforcement Unit Sgt. Cory Carlisle said. "Now we have to go through the process of understanding every aspect of it."
Meanwhile, seven certified Missouri medical marijuana patients gathered at an off-site location to prepare the officers for the next phase.
Trained Extract-ED staff took the volunteers' vitals and did some basic field sobriety tests.
Then, the volunteers got the green light to light up. They smoked legally-purchased marijuana but were told to smoke less than what they usually do.
KC Cann Transport, a medical marijuana transportation company, drove the volunteers back to the conference center, where the officers administered standard field sobriety tests to determine if anyone would be considered impaired if they wanted to drive.
"Just to have that interaction where someone used a cannabis product and it's not illegal is probably going to be the biggest hurdle to overcome but once that happens, we kind of open our eyes and see there is a difference between use and impairment," Hutton said.
Your body metabolizes THC differently than alcohol so it's inaccurate to measure THC impairment with a number, like the way officers use a .08 blood alcohol level to determine if someone is drunk.
The volunteers did the nine-step walk-and-turn test and one-leg-stand test. They also underwent the HGN test (horizontal gaze nystagmus), where the officer has the volunteer follow his finger with their eyes. The test is used to show if the person's eyes jerk when they move horizontally. Some law enforcement officers say marijuana use causes the jerking but Hutton and the group discussed how it could be inaccurate.
All but one volunteer were deemed safe to drive, but that wasn't the end of it. The volunteers went back to the off-site location where they smoked again with the idea that they may show signs of impairment during the second round of sobriety tests.
"The more training we get and the more exposure we get and have a better relationship with the medical cannabis profession, I think the better we can work together to keep our roads safer," Officer Jordan Infranca with the KCPD DUI enforcement unit said.