A Driving Question for Colo. Marijuana Users
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A Driving Question for Colo. Marijuana Users
Posted by CN Staff on February 20, 2011 at 16:05:16 PT
By Ivan Moreno, Associated Press
Source: Associated Press 
Colorado -- The surge of medical marijuana use in Colorado has started another debate in the state Legislature: What constitutes driving while high?Lawmakers are considering setting a DUI blood-content threshold for marijuana that would make Colorado one of three states with such a provision in statute - and one of the most liberal, according to Rep. Claire Levy, one of the bill's sponsors.
Under the proposal, drivers who test positive for 5 nanograms or more of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, would be considered too impaired to drive if the substance is present in their blood at the time they're pulled over or within two hours.Levy, a Democrat from Boulder, said she's gotten resistance from medical marijuana advocates who fear it will restrict patients from using the drug."What I've tried to assure the patient advocates is that we're not talking about sobriety checkpoints, we're not talking about dragnets and massive stops," she said. "They're not going to be stopped if they're driving appropriately."While it's already illegal to drive while impaired by drugs, states have taken different approaches to the issue. Twelve states, including Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Rhode Island, have a zero-tolerance policy for driving with any presence of an illegal substance, said Anne Teigen, policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Minnesota has the same policy but exempts marijuana.Nevada, which is among the 16 states that allow medical marijuana, and Ohio and have a 2 nanogram THC limit for driving. Pennsylvania has a 5 nanogram limit, but that's a state Health Department guideline, which can be introduced in driving violation cases, Teigen said.Don Christensen, the executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, which supports the 5 nanogram THC blood-content benchmark, said he thinks it's a fair way for law enforcement and the public to know how much marijuana you can consume while legally being able to drive - just as there's a limit with alcohol."I think it's fair to tell them the rules to be played by," he said.Pot activists, including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, say they hope marijuana DUIs are not based solely on the amount of the drug that is found in someone's system, but rather on the totality of the case, such as how the person was driving and other observations an officer makes.They argue that medical users of the drug may have higher tolerance levels which would allow them to drive or still have trace levels of THC long after they've smoked the drug. Some also worry that medical users may be unfairly targeted."My only concern is that, because medical marijuana is controversial, that we're entering a new phase of not racial profiling but medical profiling," said Sean McAllister, an attorney at Denver's Cannabis Law Center. McAllister was on a state panel that recommended the 5-nanogram standard, which he said is a fair judge of impairment for most users.Not all marijuana advocates agree."We're concerned the nanogram limit is too low because most medical marijuana patients are going to have higher levels in their bloodstream because of their continued use of medical cannabis," said Laura Kriho, a spokeswoman with the Cannabis Therapy Institute in Colorado.Rep. Mark Waller, a Republican who is sponsoring House Bill 1261 with Rep. Levy, said their proposal is meant to set a THC-blood level at which someone is presumed to be too impaired to drive."It's a rebuttable presumption, though," said Waller, adding that drivers won't be automatically guilty of a DUI and will still get a chance to argue their case.The bill is yet to come before a committee for a hearing, but Levy said she's already getting a lot of comments from medical marijuana users."I'm getting a lot of pushback, a lot of concern that this will hinder the ability of medical marijuana patients to make use of their medicine," Levy said. She said the bill is about safety, not targeting people who use pot for medical purposes."I'm very supportive of medicinal use of marijuana," Levy said. "You just can't allow people to be driving when they're high."Source: Associated Press (Wire)Author: Ivan Moreno, Associated PressPublished: February 20, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Associated PressCannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #17 posted by The GCW on February 22, 2011 at 16:03:02 PT
US MA: Edu: Editorial: Marijuana High On Priority ListIn an effort to control marijuana use, Colorado legislators are proposing a DUI blood-content level to control high drivers. Because medical-marijuana use has increased in the state, lawmakers want to ensure users aren't taking advantage of the registry despite the opposition which argues that this is just another step toward legalization in its similarity to alcohol guidelines. If the rules are implemented, high drivers will receive DUIs if they test positive for five or more nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ), the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana, within two hours of being pulled over. In other words, users would have to be placed in some sort of limbo while officers determined their level of cannabinoid intoxication. This could be tricky for police departments and jailhouses employees who might not be trained in understanding more long-term marijuana effects, which would result in a waste of time and resources. In terms of behavior, marijuana use is more difficult to pinpoint than alcohol use. The police have developed a fairly accurate system for pinpointing drunk drivers, i.e. they swerve and exhibit signs of absent-mindedness. In 2010, an Israeli lab conducted a simulated experiment comparing drunk and drivers on marijuana. The results showed that stoned drivers tend to drive slower and more cautiously "because they have a different sense of time" while drunk drivers, of course, exhibited less caution considering their lack of self-awareness. Both drivers are dangerous but there's no denying the high driver is less of an exhibitionist. Cont. Tue, 22 Feb 2011
Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu)
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Comment #16 posted by herbdoc215 on February 22, 2011 at 09:57:24 PT
JoeCitizen, I couldn't disagree more, as a chronic
pain patient for >25 yrs I've been to several hospitals/clinics/specialist during these years and the lines of people there FAR surpassed any I've ever seen at any liquor store and with today's focus on breathalyzers most drunks have learned not to drive. Now on the other hand their are LEGIONS of people out there driving today with pain meds, nerve pills, SSRI's, and Lord knows what else combination's in orders of magnitude to drunk about the "Oxycontin Express" highway that exists between Florida and Kentucky!
MOST have habituated to it and don't have a problem (I have never had a driving ticket in USA or caused an accident despite being on a LOT of meds over the years, ever)...but when these 'patients' cause a problem they get field tested and there are no magic cut-off levels because no two patients respond to the the same medicines the same way...this isn't an issue with these hard drugs because they are "legal? it's amazing what people will believe when they have a vested financial interest? Most of those 'studies' I've read were done by prohibitionist in Australia or UK and used cannabis naive people and/or kids which 'they' are so known to do to skewer results to keep this bogeyman bs going. Cannabis is the EASIEST drug known to man to habituate to, the problem with state bs lines these days are so many people have direct experience with cannabis and most peoples who are familiar with cannabis KNOW they drive slower and more cautious while under it's effect than at any other time in their lives...if it was this horrible problem the LEO and MADD's are screaming then there would be bodies stacked 20 deep like happen with drunks and pill poppers everyday because these drugs make people over-estimate their abilities and down play their intoxication and cannabis does just the opposite. I'm sure plenty of crackers in the south had mighty fine sounding reasons for keeping Jim Crowe laws on the books but it really is just sophistry??? Peace, Steve Tuck 
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Comment #15 posted by JoeCitizen on February 22, 2011 at 09:15:06 PT
herbdoc, some responses
I see the move to establish a threshold level of intoxication by cannabis as a GOOD move, not a bad one. Previously, ANY amount of cannabis in your system would have been considered the proximate cause of the accident/erratic driving.There are not established levels for Oxy, Benzos or other prescrips because despite their prevalence in our society, they are still FAR less common than alcohol or cannabis.But you CAN be arrested for DUI for using them if you fail a field sobriety test. And it would probably be held against you if ANY amount of them that showed up in your blood tox-screen, there is no threshold level.Lastly, the blood measure is a standard way of expressing how much of a given drug is in your body. It's the same measure we use for alcohol. Nobody is taking blood samples in the field for DUI stops, they either use field sobriety checks or the breathalyzer. If a similar test cannot be developed for cannabis (saliva tests seem much more reflective of true body-cannabinoid levels than urine tests are) then I doubt anyone will tolerate being jabbed with a needle by a cop with limited-to-zero medical training and experience. Those are lawsuits just waiting to happen.I am a believer in good science and sound statistics. The science I have read and the statistics it is based on say that at more than 5ng/ml of cannabis in the blood, the average person doesn't drive as well. At 10ng/ml, they flat out drive badly. These levels will vary some from individual to individual, but there is a very obvious general pattern, and it is worth recognizing that, and incorporating it into our transportation laws.
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on February 21, 2011 at 11:10:30 PT
Off Topic
We are lucky to live in our country. Some people seem to think it is worse then I do and that's fine. I am pleased with the VA system since Obama became President and hopefully much more will be accomplished as long as he wins a second term and I'm sure he will. Military pilots have defected from Libia because they didn't want to fire on the protesters. What's going on over there really makes me appreciate our freedom.Warplanes and Militia Fire on Protesters in Libyan Capital
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on February 21, 2011 at 10:23:52 PT
I agree. As long as we have been trying to make them understand why we feel the way we feel it's like they are deaf and don't hear anything we are saying. I think their minds only operate on what the lobbyists fighting us say.
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Comment #12 posted by herbdoc215 on February 21, 2011 at 10:13:38 PT
This is a Jim Crowe law
How many nanograms(millionth of a gram) per ML of blood are allowed for Oxycontin, Morphine, any of the Benzo's, stimulants for ADHD they pass out like candy that millions of people are tooling around on now? Impaired driving is one thing but allowing them to put us on a different level from other patients driving around on MUCH harder drugs is just plain wrong and prejudiced! I also have problems giving people the authority to draw blood from me with zero evidence I've done a crime on a cops say-so or reliability of any LEO chain of custody for samples out of my sight and sent to God knows what they call a lab? I always thought reasonable field tests for sobriety in front of a troopers camera to be a fair method to see who was able to drive and also let juries see for themselves if ticket is challenged in court has worked just fine so far? It seems to me like they are asking us patients to choose between a life of pain or helplessness? peace, Steve Tuck  
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Comment #11 posted by museman on February 21, 2011 at 10:12:09 PT
If I had my way all internal combustion vehicles would be recycled into other more useful, less polluting items, -and the whole pace of our culture could slow down to bicycle speeds, but since that isn't likely for a few decades yet, there are still gazillions of heavy, metal monsters being driven at deadly velocity on thin strips of road, with only a virtual guard of a strip of paint down the middle.Of all the reasons why accidents happen, alcohol stands out, practically alone in its record as a direct cause of death and destruction on the road.There are some good points about it made in this thread; but I submit that the real concern isn't about driving skill. habit, or safety, but simple maintenance of power, authority, and control in a new form of prohibition.One cannot gauge the ability of a cannabis smoking driver based on measurement of THC. Period. Only an actual sobriety/reaction test could determine that in the field. Unfortunately as someone pointed out about the cops, they are ignorant, and prejudiced. They make decisions based on that ignorance and prejudice more often than not, and there is more evidence of that than the alleged impairment of cannabis use.As far as being a good driver and not getting stopped; I have tested that, and if you have the powers of Obe Wan Kenobi, you can do that.I drove across country, and around it for 23 years without a drivers license, or insurance. Once I drove a huge hippy bus across the country with only a trip permit, no license, no insurance, and no license plates either. But Obe Wan and the Force were with me. And I waited to get high until after I was done driving for the day (if I had anything to get high with), because i know that fear and paranoia are vibrations the cops are trained to read -like dogs.The priority here is like so many other things in our society; bad cops, bad politicians, and bad professionals, all working in cahoots to maintain their illicit power, and the people just take the brunt. Get rid of the bad cops, bad politicians, and bad professionals, allow liberty, and teach responsibility. Start there and see what comes up.LEGALIZE FREEDOMBTW; I lost my license because of a failure to pay a 'marijuana ticket' in 1975. And got it suspended because my car was parked at a grow bust a few years later. Never had an accident, except one, due to bad road, bad tires, and lots of rain, and no other vehicles were involved, just a couple of huge trees I barely missed. And that was to rescue my good friend runruff who had gotten his car impounded for some ridiculous reason (cop 'jurisprudence') in California.
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Comment #10 posted by Vincent on February 21, 2011 at 08:57:32 PT:
Reckless driving, again
FoM makes a valid point about where the authorities' prejudices are. And GCW also makes a valid point about being pulled over randomly. Both comments are quite true. The common denominator here is the ignorance and prejudice of many cops.But, I think that my point is still inarguable. Reckless driving should never be tolerated, and I don't care if the driver is drunk, or distracted or "texting". Generally speaking, if you drive right, chances are that you will arrive at your destination without being bothered. Or being killed in an accident. If you drive lousy, know.Haven't you ever wondered why "Master Spies" can transport radioactive isotopes across the country, and not get caught. That's because most of them drive correctly.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on February 21, 2011 at 07:56:33 PT
Just a Comment
If they stopped someone for driving poorly and test them for marijuana and the person is on legal prescripton medicine that is mind altering they could blame marijuana and never blame the pills.
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Comment #8 posted by JoeCitizen on February 21, 2011 at 06:37:08 PT
Crappy writing
This is a very poorly written article. The measure in question is 5 nanograms/milliliter of blood. So it is relative to your size and how much you've smoked/vaped/ingested.The 5ng/ml standard is not arbitrary, a number of the large (non-US, real science-based) driving studies pegged that as the point at which cannabis-influenced drivers started making a lot of unacceptable mistakes.And the question isn't just whether YOU (likely a highly experienced cannabis user) can drive while heavily affected by cannabis (although that is a valid question, and most people overestimate their own abilities or cave into convenience and's just a mile or two, I'll make it!) The question is also whether the idiot kid in the next car has the same degree of experience and control.I'm more in favor of proving your abilities EVERY time you have to drive, needing to do something that requires attention and reaction time in order to unlock the transmission. That would eliminate sleepy, angry, and distracted drivers from starting their cars, as well as those who are intoxicated or altered.But in the realm of tests involving absolute measures of body chemistry, the 5ng/ml measure is neither unreasonable nor unscientific.
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Comment #7 posted by runruff on February 21, 2011 at 04:18:30 PT
How I became a hippi!
I once cried because I had no shoes then I met a gecko in a smoking jacket who tried to sell me insurance.I didn't smoke and I didn't need insurance and I was already barefoot so I became a hippi!
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Comment #6 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on February 21, 2011 at 02:43:23 PT
If someone's driving recklessly, does it matter...
if they have 10 nanos or 2 nanos or no nanos?if they blow .09 alcohol or .06 alcohol or .01?if they drank too much coffee or not enough?if they're on their cell or scratching themselves?if they're tired or angry or happy or sad?And if they should be tested to see if they get a ticket or a taxi, shouldn't it be a test of coordination and reflexes rather than blood or urine?And if there's an accident, shouldn't the blame go towards who is at fault, rather than who has the wrong amount of whatever in their body?
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on February 20, 2011 at 20:53:59 PT
Stop that car. -but there will be times where someone is pulled over for unrelated issues or is already stopped, or is non-white and Mr. Friendly decides to test... There may be room for people to be discriminated against who are honestly not too impaired to drive safely.If the level is being dictated by prohibiitonists who profit off it, it seems they will pick a discredited low amount. It's not being implemented for safety then.I can see govenment arresting someone for 6 nanos who can walk the white line while doing a handstand.  And the cops and their unions wish to discriminate because it is a matter of job security.I think.
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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on February 20, 2011 at 20:34:11 PT
The dreaded nano of the north.
I imagine comedian Robin Williams could explain it.Can we purchase a nanometer for bongs? How about rolling papers with lines on them to show when 5 nanograms is reached. If people stop smoking at 4 nano's do they even get a buzz? Did Obama overnano? How many naono's in a kilo?If a person enjoys a 1,000 nanobuzz, how long till they can drive? Will eating refried beans lower nanograms. Will whiskey pickle them?It's not a percentage.?!Why don't they just let people walk the white line? I know, I know, because people that smoke pot can do that.I've heard people test for hundreds of nanograms long after smoking cannabis and are no longer buzzed.
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Comment #3 posted by Vincent on February 20, 2011 at 20:18:15 PT:
One thing overlooked
I don't know much about the levels of THC in the blood, or the way that the authorities measure it. Although I am a strong defender of Herb smokers rights, I notice one line in the article that might be overlooked. It's about responsibility. "They're not going to be stopped if they're driving appropriately."I know that a lot of cops can be annoying but for the most part, they pretty much wanna just see smooth traffic. If you drive lousy or aggressively, you will be noticed. Drive correctly, and nobody's gonna bother you. Drive stupidly, and they're gonna pull you over. That's the way it is. If I was a cop, and I saw somebody drive recklessly, I would definitely stop that car. Wouldn't You?
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 20, 2011 at 18:43:07 PT
Glad you said that The GCW because what the heck is a Nano? One joint? Two joints? 
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on February 20, 2011 at 18:18:51 PT
Don't speak nano
I don't speak nano and don't know how to relate to nanograms. Most agree, don't want people on the road driving if they are too impaired on alcohol or anything else. I think states are too strict with limits though. I know people can smoke cannabis quite a bit and still drive so well that other people would think they are excelent drivers and haven't smoked anything. -So some of this issue may be a bit discredited and helping to legally discriminate against people who are not a risk to the world.How much is 5 nanograms.
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