Law's Constitutionality Focus of Williams Case

Law's Constitutionality Focus of Williams Case
Posted by FoM on October 17, 2000 at 13:26:17 PT
By Kim Smith 
Source: Las Vegas SUN
District Judge Mark Gibbons is expected to decide Wednesday whether a new law being used in the Jessica Williams case is constitutional. Gibbons spent most of Monday afternoon listening to two toxicology experts give opposing views on whether marijuana's active ingredients can impair one's ability to drive.Williams, 21, is accused in the deaths of six teenagers killed March 19 as they were picking up trash along Interstate 15.
Prosecutors believe Williams passed out at the wheel as a result of smoking marijuana and taking the drug Ecstasy, and they were able to convince a grand jury to indict her on a relatively new law involving prohibited substances.Under the law, anyone with certain amounts of particular street drugs in his or her system is automatically presumed to be driving under the influence of that drug.In the Williams case, blood tests taken an hour after the accident showed that for each milliliter of her blood, she had 5.5 nanograms of marijuana in her system. Under the new law, anyone with 2 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter of blood is presumed to be under the influence of the drug.Williams' attorney, John Watkins, contends his client merely fell asleep. He believes the real blame for the accident should fall on the shoulders of Clark County because the children were performing community service as punishment for minor legal infractions.On Monday, Watkins' expert toxicologist, Bryan Finkle, told a crowded courtroom that there is no scientific evidence that shows a correlation between impairment and marijuana's ingredients.Unlike alcohol, one can't predict how much marijuana will show up in any particular person's system, Finkle said. Nor can anyone tell by someone's blood tests when the person smoked the marijuana or how much.However, Ray Kelly, a toxicologist who testified on behalf of prosecutors Gary Booker and Bruce Nelson, said some tests indicate marijuana can impair drivers.In flight simulator tests, airplane pilots who thought they were fine 24 hours after smoking marijuana were actually still impaired, Kelly said.Gibbons also heard Monday from state Sen. Jon Porter, who helped draft the law after a Las Vegas family who lost their loved one to a drugged driver approached him for help.Porter said he was told eight or nine other states have similar measures and those that have been challenged have been upheld by those states' high courts.Gibbons said he will take the next couple of days to study the many studies submitted by the toxicologists. On Wednesday, he will hear arguments from the defense and prosecution lawyers before making a decision.Note: Experts give opposing views of effects of marijuana.By Kim Smith: kimberly lasvegassun.comSource: Las Vegas Sun (NV)Published: October 17, 2000 Author: Kim SmithCopyright: 2000 Las Vegas Sun, Inc.Contact: letters lasvegassun.comAddress: P.O. Box 4275, Las Vegas, NV 89127Fax: (702) 383-7264Website: Articles:Williams Bond Will Remain at $5 Million Case Will Test New DUI Law 
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Comment #8 posted by Doc-Hawk on October 19, 2000 at 19:03:41 PT:
Dick Cowan's analysis of one study
As usual, Dick hits the nail on the head and manages to get in quite a few other anti-prohibitionist licks at the same time. 
UK Study Finds Marijuana Use Makes Drivers Safer.
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Comment #7 posted by Another view on October 19, 2000 at 05:18:47 PT
NEW YORK, ‹ Driving and marijuana use could be a dangerous combination, according to European researchers. "Perceptual motor speed and accuracy, two very important parameters of driving ability, seem to be impaired immediately after cannabis consumption,'' conclude Dr. Ilse Kurtzhaler and colleagues at Innsbruck University Clinics, in Innsbruck, Austria. Their findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. While the detrimental effects of alcohol on driving ability are well known, "definitive answers'' regarding driving and marijuana use have remained elusive, according to the authors. To help resolve this issue, they performed a series of physical and psychological tests on 60 healthy volunteers who were asked to smoke regular cigarettes or cigarettes containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active agent in marijuana. The investigators found that, compared with subjects who smoked regular cigarettes, "the THC group exhibited a significantly higher impairment of cognitive (intellectual) function'' after smoking the drug. Specifically, the THC group saw their intellectual function decline in two main areas ‹ 'perceptual motor speed' and 'accuracy.' Impairment in perceptual motor speed means that a driver misjudges speed, for example, thinking he is driving 50 miles per hour when in fact his speed is much faster. Driving accuracy refers to the driver's ability to respond quickly and effectively to new, potentially dangerous driving events. THC smokers also had trouble remembering experiences from psychological tests run the previous day, according to the researchers. This suggests that "a driver under acute cannabis influence would not be able to use acquired knowledge from earlier experiences adequately to ensure road safety,'' they explain. Based on these findings, Kurzthaler's team speculate that roadside tests aimed at detecting marijuana use could become standard practice in the not-too-distant future. In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Jag Khalsa of the National Institute of Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland, called the Austrian research one of the first "well-controlled'' studies on the issue, conducted in a "scientific manner.'' Still, he believes that more research is needed before US legislators, health authorities and law-enforcement officials make any move towards mandating THC checks for American drivers. In any case, he said, "I don't think we have a sound (testing) technology yet.''1:10 p.m. ET (1715 GMT) July 8, 1999Jul 08 (Reuters Health) SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1999;60:395-399. 
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Comment #6 posted by Doc-Hawk on October 18, 2000 at 18:32:06 PT:
What about LEGAL THC?
What About Legal THC?At the official Marinol site (no longer on the Web?)here what it said about side effects and driving:Marinol® can cause side effects in some patients including dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, paranoid reactions, or a feeling of being "high" (easy laughing, elation, andheightened awareness). Many of these reactions disappear within 1 to 3 days of continuous usage or can be eliminated by lowering the dose.You should not drive, operate machinery, or engage in any hazardous activity until it is established that you are able to tolerate Marinol® and perform such taskssafely.------------Seems to me that if Marinol is a legal drug, then it would be a real can of worms to arrest legal users.
Spotlight on Medical Marijuana
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on October 18, 2000 at 18:12:28 PT:
Judge To Decide Constitutionality of Drug Law 
Wednesday, October 18, 2000 ©2000 Associated Press Source: S.F. GateURL: 17:38 PDT Las Vegas(AP) A judge will decide next week whether a new Nevada law that makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs is unconstitutional. An attorney for the 21-year-old charged with running down and killing six teen-agers while they picked up trash along Interstate 15 is challenging the law. John Watkins contends there is a difference between using drugs and being impaired by them. Prosecutors say Jessica Williams, an exotic dancer from Littlefield, Ariz., was impaired by marijuana and the drug Ecstasy when she fell asleep and plowed her father's minivan into the teen work crew March 19. The teens were part of a county program that lets misdemeanor offenders work off their sentences. The county was later fined by the state for safety violations and discontinued the roadside trash program. Watkins claims his client was just tired. ``Mere use does not mean impairment. By declaring this statute unconstitutional, you protect all citizens,'' he argued Wednesday during closing arguments of a two-day evidentiary hearing. Prosecutor Bruce Nelson said Williams knew she wasn't supposed to be driving after smoking marijuana. ``As a result of her choices, six people died,'' he said. District Judge Mark Gibbons said he will announce his decision sometime next week. 
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Comment #4 posted by nl5x on October 17, 2000 at 19:24:31 PT
Cannabis May Make You a Safer Driver 
U. Of Toronto Study Shows Marijuana Not a Hazard! (3/1999) Cannabis May Make You a Safer Driver (8/2000) Australia: Cannabis Crash Risk Less: Study (1998) Australia: Study Goes to Pot (1998) --Drivers with cannabis in their blood were less likely to cause an accident, with a culpability rate of 50.6 per cent.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 17, 2000 at 18:37:58 PT
A horrible accident
What ever happened to it was a horrible accident? When I was young that is how things like this were explained to me, a horrible accident. Very sad and unfortunate but none the less an accident. We have strayed so far from basic common sense. I always remember a saying I believe it was from the bible but it goes like this. Chance and unforseen circumstance befall all men. I have believed that for many years. Doesn't anyone understand that this young woman will never forget this event. Her life will never be the same and the guilt must be overwhelming. Isn't that enough punishment?
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Comment #2 posted by Dankhank on October 17, 2000 at 18:14:51 PT:
2nd time for this dreck ...
I personally contacted the reporter on the first story about this unfortunate young lady. I think this story may be reported on by the same reporter.My question to her was this: Why is the mention of ecstacy so miniscule in fact?Surely we know WHAT the driver must have been doing for most of the previous night? It wasn't sleep ...I bet ...So when the unfortunate driver departed by car for a three-hour-drive, the morning after using the ecstacy, she smoked a doob and did fine for two hours, then nodded and crashed, literally through a bunch of unlucky kids policing trash in the middle of the interstate.The driver was egregiously wrong for driving in such a sleep-deprived state, but not deserving of a DUI charge.Meanwhile, the reporter fails again to fully explain the probable impact of ecstacy on the physical condition of the driver.In point of fact, the reporter replied to me and even then said little about the ecstacy.Someone should contact the defense lawyer ... but surely he knows already ...I know ... stop calling you shirley ... :-)
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on October 17, 2000 at 14:09:53 PT:
No Correlation
There is clearly no correlation between serum THC levels and degree of impairment observed, if any. This is on the basis of innumerable studies.
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