Ottawa Revives Plan To Relax Pot Laws

Ottawa Revives Plan To Relax Pot Laws
Posted by CN Staff on November 02, 2004 at 07:15:23 PT
By Campbell Clark
Source: Globe and Mail 
Ottawa -- The federal Liberals revived two controversial law-enforcement bills yesterday, playing down one that would decriminalize marijuana while emphasizing a get-tough plan to catch drug-impaired drivers.Justice Minister Irwin Cotler reintroduced a bill that would allow police officers to demand blood or urine samples from drivers suspected of being impaired by marijuana or other drugs as a companion piece to the revival of efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
At the same time, he announced $6.8-million to train police officers to conduct the new tests to detect drivers on drugs. Mr. Cotler avoided any mention of decriminalization -- instead calling his cannabis enforcement reform "alternate penalty frameworks."The Martin government allowed both bills to languish and die before the spring election, thus sidestepping the qualms of some of its own MPs and the U.S. government, as well as adamant opposition from a minority of voters.Yesterday, Mr. Cotler argued that measures to make drug-impaired driving tests mandatory will help save lives and said they are no more an infringement on civil rights than roadside breath-analysis tests."The whole idea here is to make what is now voluntary, mandatory," Mr. Cotler said. "We're not creating a new offence . . . what is new here is that we are giving the law-enforcement authorities the tools they need to investigate the offence and to ensure that what we do with regard to alcohol impairment, we're going to be doing with regard to drug impairment."Mr. Cotler insisted he is not giving police officers arbitrary powers, saying the measures are modelled on alcohol-impairment testing and that the courts will find them to fit with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some, including the Canadian Bar Association, have questioned whether allowing police to demand body fluid samples without obtaining a warrant would pass muster in the courts.No simple, reliable breath test for drugs exists, so police officers will have to be trained to conduct physiological impairment tests, such as asking suspects to stand on one leg. If impairment by a particular drug is indicated, suspects would be given further tests at the police station, indicators such as blood pressure and pulse would be measured -- and then they would have to provide blood or urine, or possibly saliva.Those samples will not prove that someone was driving while impaired by a drug, however. There are no agreed-on levels of drugs in the system that would cause impairment, similar to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level, and the metabolites of some drugs can be found in the system weeks after they were ingested.Government and RCMP officials said the fluid samples only add "a piece of the puzzle" once an officer has identified that a driver is impaired and determined that a drug is probably the cause.Only 123 officers have completed the training to conduct the tests, compared to more than 3,000 who have taken the less extensive Breathalyzer training.Mr. Cotler announced a $6.8-million fund for training in catching drug-impaired drivers, aimed at tripling the number of qualified officers in three years, but government officials concede that even that will not be enough.Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said that the money would be better spent developing more reliable tests, and that the decriminalization of marijuana should wait until the tests are available.The decriminalization bill, which would replace criminal sanctions and jail terms for the possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana with fines akin to those for traffic tickets, is also opposed by the Canadian Professional Police Association, which represents police officers. President Tony Cannavino said the 15-grams cutoff will allow small-time dealers to avoid prosecution. He suggested the bill should decriminalize amounts of only one or two grams.Mr. Toews said he is concerned that decriminalization will increase demand for pot, and that the supply will come from organized crime. But he also raised fears that the United States, which has opposed the move, will fight back with sanctions that affect Canadian trade.Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)Author:  Campbell ClarkPublished: Tuesday, November 2, 2004 - Page A4 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: Article & Web Site:Cannabis News Canadian Links Renews Plan To Decriminalise Pot Canada Archives 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #8 posted by Dankhank on November 02, 2004 at 18:22:48 PT
runderwo:You make a good point, but if you can obtain the study,"Forensic Science Review Vol. 14, Number One/Two, Jan 2002 you will find out that metabolites can be found in saliva only for a short time after smoking ... the thing most fear about. So it may be a method of finding out if Cannabis was recently smoked, but won't tell when it was consumed in any other way than as a cloud entering airways. When consuming in any other fashion I'm sure that things are different.Point here is that many known studies by our DOT do not support the knee-jerk response most politicians suffer when queried as to their position on driving while stoned. Most politicians believe that since Alcohol degrades driving ability so must illegal drugs. This totally ignores drivers using legal mood stabilizers/enhancers... or any other legal drugs that may affect driving performance.Regarding Marinol, which is widely agreed to produce a heavier "stone" than most users want or need, there is a warning about driving when using. This is it: "Patients receiving treatment with Marinol should be specifically warned not to drive, operate machinery, or engage in any hazardous activity until it is established that they are able to tolerate the drug and to perform such tasks safely.The search for truth continues .................
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by runderwo on November 02, 2004 at 15:55:39 PT
Have to be careful about things like this
Simply testing for the presence of THC metabolites is not sufficient to determine whether a driver is currently under the influence or not. Allowing the results of such a test to be used against the driver in court would be a mistake, because the tests usually do not differentiate between levels of metabolites, so a driver who is currently stoned would test the same as a driver who was stoned yesterday or 6 hours previously. There seems to be no current reliable way to correlate THC intoxication with driving impairment besides through a field sobriety test.Whether or not THC intoxication statistically results in more traffic incidents is also a point of debate. Prohibitionists usually point to studies that show something like "30% of drivers in traffic crashes were under the influence of marijuana", but neglect to provide a control group sampled from the general population of overall drivers (perhaps it would turn out that 30% of overall drivers are stoned at any point in time), and furthermore neglect to provide the methodology used to determine whether or not a particular driver was under the influence at that particular moment. The above two points render existing prohibitionist statistics meaningless except as scare tactics.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Dankhank on November 02, 2004 at 14:31:15 PT
Driving Impaired?
Missed this gem ... here it is again ...generic LTE or to others such as Rep. Portman and a couple of judges:Sir: 
	It is with great interest that I read the story about the defendant you sentenced to "living with a coffin" as a reminder of the "deadly consequences of your choices." The young man was convicted of possession of Cocaine and driving under the influence. 	In recent months I have been corresponding with a Dr Jim Frank of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding "Impaired Driving." During our discussions he offered and sent me six studies done by the Department of Transportation, or related material.
	After reading these studies I picked out the most startling, I feel, comments that will be read by many that insist that since alcohol affects driving skill badly, all other illegal drugs must, too. Here are some items I gleaned from each study I received from the NHTSA. 
This is MY research ---------Dankhank Lawton OK DOT HS 808 078 "Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance" Final Report, Nov. 1993 Conclusions on page 108 of the copy I received from the NHTSA are interesting and informative. A sample : "It is possible to safely study the effects of marijuana on driving on highways or city streets in the presence of other traffic." "Drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to over-estimate the adverse effects of the drug on their driving ability and compensate when they can; e.g. by increasing effort to accomplish the task, increasing headway or slowing down, or a combination of these." DOT HS 808 939 "Marijuana, Alcohol and Actual Driving Performance" July 1999 Conclusion on page 39 midway of paragraph 5.1 of the copy I received: The addition of the new data, (for marijuana), broadens the range of reactions that may be expected to occur in real life. This range has not been shown to extend into the area that can rightfully be regarded as dangerous or an obviously unacceptable threat to public safety. DOT HS 809 020 "Visual Search and Urban City Driving under the Influence of Marijuana and Alcohol" March 2000: Conclusion 1 on page 24 of the copy I received. "Low doses of marijuana taken alone, did not impair city driving performance and did not diminish visual search frequency for traffic at intersections in this study." 
General Discussion on page 22 . Previous on-the-road studies have also demonstrated that subjects are generally aware of the impairing properties of THC and try to compensate for the drug's impairing properties by driving more carefully (Hansteen et al, 1976; Casswell, 1979; Peck et al, 1986; Robbe 1994). DOT HS 809 642 "State of Knowledge of Drug Impaired Driving" Sept 2003: Experimental Research of Cannabis, page 41 midway: "The extensive studies by Robbe and O'Hanlon (1993), revealed that under the influence of Marijuana, drivers are aware of their impairment, and when experimental tasks allow it, they tend to actually decrease speed, avoid passing other cars, and reduce other risk-taking behaviors." DOT HS 808 065 "The Incidence and Role of Drugs in Fatally Injured Drivers" Oct. 1992 In discussing the "Distribution of Ratings on Driver Responsibility" Table 5.12 page 64 of the copy I received, paragraph (p.65); "Responsibility, drugs and alcohol, third paragraph, "the following appears: "Note that the responsibility rates of the THC-only and Cocaine-only groups are actually lower than that of the drugfree drivers. Although these results too are inconclusive, they give no suggestion of impairment in the two groups. The low responsibility rate for THC was reminiscent of that found in young males by Williams and colleagues (1986).” This study is remarkable in it's propensity to attack itself as inconclusive. Forensic Science Review Vol. 14, Number One/Two, Jan 2002, surely must be the reference of note regarding metabolic functions and where the THC goes following ingestion. This review discuses THC and it's metabolites; THCCOOH, 11-OH-THC to mention the most discussed. Location and type of measured quantities of these and other metabolites should be easy to use to determine if a driver is "stoned" or was stoned yesterday, or last week. Mention was made of a man who had measurable levels of metabolites sixty-seven days after ingesting Cannabis.
Chap IX paragraph D, "Summary" appears to be of two minds. While stating: "Studies examining Cannabis' causal effect through responsibility analysis have more frequently indicated that THC alone did not increase accident risk …" it continues optimistically suggesting that further exhaustive research may rebut that.
All of the studies agree that combining Cannabis with any other drug, such as Alcohol ... a major deleterious effect on driving skills, as is benzoates with Cannabis … it rapidly becomes evident that Cannabis in combination with any number of other drugs is not to be desired, but that Cannabis and Cocaine alone in all six studies have the smallest perceived safety risk of all the drugs and drug combinations tested and against drug-free drivers.	Thank You for taking the time to review this material and I must comment on the previous statement in bold and larger font, DOT HS 808 065. It is mind-boggling to some, how the government and legislatures are of two minds about the “War on Some Drugs.”  The legislature harasses, locks up and generally ruins hundreds of thousands of families every year for a perceived threat that is not supported in the government studies conducted supposedly to give guidance to legislators, and the rest of America, regarding what is a threat or not.	Sir, I ask you to task your staff to order those studies from NHTSA and have someone review them.  My observations are accurate, but we all insist on verification. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on November 02, 2004 at 13:19:28 PT
I didn't see the links. You got it. I was only looking for an article when I looked. Good job.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by lombar on November 02, 2004 at 13:15:06 PT
Hey! Where'd you think I got all those links! :)
If you scroll down the comments you will see that I basically copied and pasted the links (from the 2003 article) I quoted to a text file to save on my HD. Right from observers comments!!! Same order and everything!!! I knew they would be a handy bunch of links! My local representative will be getting these links as well.:)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by FoM on November 02, 2004 at 12:53:27 PT
Here's one.Paranoid Pot Smokers 'Drive More Carefully':
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by lombar on November 02, 2004 at 12:49:38 PT
Did we skip something?
Like how about PROVING that using cannabis IMPAIRS ones driving abilities to the extent that it makes one a dangerous driver? It is just assumed that the effect of cannabis is like alcohol intoxication. More of the same willful ignorance by those who govern. Cannabis users are inclined to be afraid of DYING IN A FIERY CRASH whereas drunk drivers are reckless and dangerous because their judgement is basically gone, their inhibitions and fears are numbed to the point of non-existence. There is a commercial on TV every now and again where they have a camera in the drivers seat as the car is driving thru city streets. They put a beer glass in front of the camera, obscuring your vision. Then another and another while the narrator says "Each drink you have impairs your judgement" and finally we crash into the back of a bus after speeding around a corner and being blinded by alcohol. There is NO WAY cannabis affects a person that markedly.Australia: No Proof Cannabis Put Drivers At Risk (2001) Cannabis May Make You A Safer Driver (2000) University Of Toronto Study Shows Marijuana Not A Factor In Driving Accidents (1999)\1999\03\990325110700.htm Australia: Cannabis Crash Risk Less: Study (1998) Australia: Study Goes to Pot (1998)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by afterburner on November 02, 2004 at 08:39:15 PT
Unacceptable, Let's Talk!
Relaxed pot possession bill returns
London Free Press, Canada - 8 hours ago
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment