Taking a Hit in The Name of Science
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Taking a Hit in The Name of Science
Posted by CN Staff on October 16, 2010 at 16:08:21 PT
By Steve Lopez
Source: Los Angeles Times
Calif. -- The man on the other end of the phone wanted me to go to a dispensary and buy three-sixteenths of an ounce of high-grade dope and another three-sixteenths of an ounce of medium-grade.My wife overheard part of the conversation, and when I hung up she had a question. "Who was that?" she asked. "The city attorney," I said. Before I explain, let's review some history.
As some of you may recall, I went to a Glendale doctor about a year ago seeking relief from lower back pain, and, of course, to have a first-hand look at the blossoming medicinal marijuana industry. Now I'm not saying it was strange for a doctor to have an office with no medical equipment in it, but I did take note of that fact. And when I described the pain, the doctor waved me off, saying he knew nothing about back problems."I'm a gynecologist," he said, and then he wrote me a recommendation making it legal for me to buy medicinal marijuana. The fee for my visit was $150.Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, who led the recent crackdown on an explosion of local marijuana dispensaries, was very much aware of my legal status as an honorary Rastafarian. And one day, several months ago, he called to see if I'd be willing to make a sacrifice in the public interest.With Proposition 19 on the ballot, which would legalize marijuana in the state, Trutanich was worried. There wasn't much data, he said, about the effects of marijuana on driving impairment. Recently, there'd been news of a study that suggested driving under the influence of alcohol is more dangerous than driving while high. Trutanich wanted to conduct his own research.Do you like where this is going?I know I did.Would I be willing, Trutanich asked, to go to the police training center with him, smoke some reefer, and see how I did behind the wheel?Before Trutanich completed a sentence, I interrupted: "I'm in.""Everybody in my office thinks this is a crazy idea," said Trutanich. His staff was concerned about the legal and public relations liabilities."What do you think?" Trutanich asked."There are leaders, and there are followers," I said, advising Trutanich to trust his instincts and to ignore those of lesser courage and creativity."I'm really curious about it," he said. "Whatever we find out, fine, either way it goes. But I'd like to know more."It is in the public interest, I said. Hey, I'd be willing to take a hit for the team.To be honest, I'm not a pot smoker except on rare occasions (have you ever experienced the agony of lower back pain)? The only time I've smoked in recent years is with my sister, a cancer patient who has found that marijuana helps with the pain. I do believe there's a legitimate medicinal benefit for many people, just as I believe that potheads far and wide found quacks who would give them permission slips to get zonked.Trutanich, by the way, opposes Proposition 19, as does much of law enforcement. I've taken the other side, arguing that people will continue smoking marijuana whether it's legal or not, so why not tax and regulate it, deal a blow to drug gangs and put the millions now spent on interdiction and prosecution to better use.But I've wavered a bit as election day approaches, swayed by arguments that commercializing pot would violate federal law and invite litigation. It would also lead to patchwork policies at the local level, it would lower the price of weed dramatically and therefore create more widespread use, and it might lure illicit out-of-state dealers into the California market.Would more people in California drive while high if Proposition 19 passes? Probably, and when you add that to the problem of drunk drivers and the legions of distracted drivers on cellphones and BlackBerrys , it seemed worth finding out how much a man can smoke before becoming a menace on the highway.Several weeks went by, though, before I heard back from Trutanich. Our experiment was on hold, he said, while he tried to iron out legal concerns and talk law enforcement agencies into cooperating.I had almost given up hope when Trutanich called a couple of weeks ago to say we were good to go ganja. He'd arranged for the CHP to administer sobriety tests, before and after, and guide me through an obstacle course at the LAPD training center in Granada Hills. The CHP was just as eager as he was to find out how I and another guinea pig — radio talk show host Peter Tilden of KABC-AM (790) — handled ourselves after puffing the magic dragon."We'll provide the marijuana," Trutanich said, but then he called back to say his staff determined the city attorney's office couldn't legally pull that off, so I, as a person with legitimate medical need, would have to pick up some product. Several times, late in the evening and on weekends, Trutanich called me at home to go over the details.At the appointed time on the morning of Oct. 11, Trutanich's communications deputy, former L.A. County Sheriff's Cmdr. John Franklin, picked me up at my house to drive me to Granada Hills, where Trutanich and the police would be waiting."You got the stuff?" Franklin asked.I reached into my backpack to make sure.Yep, I said. Three-sixteenths of an ounce of Skywalker, and the same amount of something called Train Wreck. That's got to be good stuff, right?Tune in Wednesday, and I'll let you know.Note: Does pot impair drivers more than alcohol—or just make them mellow in traffic?Columnist puts it to the test.Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)Author:  Steve LopezPublished: October 17, 2010Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by John Tyler on October 16, 2010 at 18:42:06 PT
I’m curious about where the DA and the cops get the authority to conduct any kind of test using cannabis. Doesn’t the DEA have to approve any such testing, and don’t they have to use cannabis from the farm in Mississippi? It looks like a whole lot of laws were broken here.
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Comment #5 posted by Dankhank on October 16, 2010 at 18:13:05 PT
This is not new, been there, done that ...
FoM ... carrying a coffee cup is a new test ... they should try it ... :-)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, 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 discusses 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 strains a credulous mind; the government and legislatures are of two minds about the “War on Some Drugs.”  The legislature harasses, imprisons and generally ruins hundreds of thousands of families every year for a perceived threat that is not supported in other government studies conducted supposedly to give guidance to legislators, and the rest of America, regarding what is a threat or not.more studies:
Cannabis/Driving Studies 
Australia: No Proof Cannabis Put Drivers At Risk (2001)
 UK:Cannabis May Make You A Safer Driver (2000) 
University Of Toronto Study Shows Marijuana Not A Factor In Driving Accidents (1999)\1999\03990325110700.htm
 Australia: Cannabis Crash Risk Less: Study (1998) 
Australia: Study Goes to Pot (1998) Of Toronto Study Shows Marijuana Not A Factor In Driving Accidents
The safety hazards of smoking marijuana and driving are overrated, says University of Toronto researcher Alison Smiley. 
Recent research into impairment and traffic accident reports from several countries shows that marijuana taken alone in moderate amounts does Australia: No Proof Cannabis Put Drivers At Risk (2001) 
not significantly increase a driver's risk of causing an accident -- unlike alcohol, says Smiley, an adjunct professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering. While smoking marijuana does impair driving ability, it does not share alcohol's effect on judgment. Drivers on marijuana remain aware of their impairment, prompting them to slow down and drive more cautiously to compensate, she says. 
"Both substances impair performance," Smiley says. "However, the more cautious behaviour of subjects who received marijuana decreases the drug's impact on performance. Their behaviour is more appropriate to their impairment, whereas subjects who received alcohol tend to drive in a more risky manner."
Smiley, who has studied transportation safety for over 25 years, drew her results from a "metanalysis" of existing research into the effects of marijuana on driving ability, combined with traffic accident statistics in the United States and Australia. Previous studies showing stronger effects often combined "fairly hefty doses" by researchers with driving immediately after consumption, likely exaggerating the drug's effects, she believes. 
While Smiley does not advocate legalizing the drug, she says her results should be considered by those debating mandatory drug tests for users of transportation equipment such as truck or train drivers, or the decriminalization of marijuana for medical use. "There's an assumption that because marijuana is illegal, it must increase the risk of an accident. We should try to just stick to the facts." 
Smiley presented her findings at a symposium of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Florida in February. Her paper was also published in Health Effects of Cannabis, a publication of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in March. 
CONTACT: Bruce Rolston U of T Public Affairs (416) 978-6974 bruce.rolston 
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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on October 16, 2010 at 18:02:18 PT
I also hope it's a person who doesn't drink a lot because they also get used to it. A big beer belly is a bad sign... The law enforcer type are in charge and I would not be surprised if they get a guy that can drink like a fish.-0-A number of international studies indicate the cannabis smoker will be less dangerous. If I remember right, the guy that smokes a small amount of the superplant will actually be a safer driver than the sober cops who watch. (except they actually train to drive...)But, gotta wait.& I'm already waitin' -it's Saturday night and these are alwasys slowwww.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 16, 2010 at 17:50:08 PT
I always thought this would be a good and simple test. Not for driving though.One person drinks one beer and another person takes a few tokes on a joint. Then they must carry a full cup of coffee across the room. Keep going with one more bottle of beer and a few tokes and see which one will spill the coffee first! LOL!
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on October 16, 2010 at 17:45:37 PT
Awe, gotta wait...
Hate to wait, this is good.I'd like to see one more person in the test. That would be a regular cannabis smoker. I think a regular smoker isn't going to be impaired as much as a peron who only smokes a few puffs a week.I also want to know how they're going to equate the fresh food with the rotten food. How much whiskey equals 2 tokes off the portable alter???
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 16, 2010 at 17:41:36 PT
Supporters Of Legalizing Medical Marijuana Rally
Supporters Of Legalizing Medical Marijuana Rally On Statehouse LawnBy Darlene Montgomery October 16, 2010 Columbus, Ohio -- 
Ohio lawmakers are considering a new bill to legalize medical marijuana.Supporters of the Ohio Medical Compassion Act including members of Ohio NORML and Central Ohio NORML gathered on the Statehouse lawn to talk to Central Ohioans about House Bill 478.The bill was introduced back in April and is currently being reviewed by the Health Committee.URL:
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