cannabisnews.com: When are People Too High To Drive?
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When are People Too High To Drive?
Posted by CN Staff on September 07, 2010 at 05:22:25 PT
By Joshua Melvin, MediaNews Group
Source: Daily Democrat
California -- A cop pulls over a motorist who's driving like he's drunk, but the officer suspects the driver may be high on marijuana. Unlike with alcohol, there's no objective way for police to detect whether somebody is impaired while driving under the influence of marijuana. There's no breath test for THC, pot's active ingredient, and no 0.08 limit to drive like California law sets for alcohol in the blood.Now, as Californians consider making the state the first in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, police officials are concerned that Proposition 19 could put an extremely difficult burden on police: How will they determine whether a driver is too drugged to drive?
The blood alcohol concentration in one's breath pretty closely tracks how much booze is in a person's blood. Not so for THC, which is absorbed by the fat in a person's body and stays there for days or weeks after the marijuana is consumed.That's because pot isn't metabolized by the body the same way alcohol is, said Steven Gust, an official at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. So just having THC in your system doesn't mean you're too intoxicated to drive.That means officers base arrests only on observations, field sobriety tests and, ultimately, their judgment. To improve that judgment, the California Highway Patrol uses the Drug Recognition Expert program to train police throughout the state. More than 1,200 current officers have received the training and 55,000 arrests have been made using the program's evaluation techniques since 1992.While there is no simple roadside THC test being used in California, police in Australia and parts of Europe have started using saliva tests during stops. Those are likely years away from general use and have raised some legal questions, Gust said.But even if California police start using the saliva tests, the problem of no legal standard for THC intoxication remains.Having a legal THC limit, for driving or public intoxication, hasn't been necessary because marijuana is illegal, said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who also heads the California Police Chiefs Association."It's a lot of science and years of work (to set a limit). Who's to say that any level is OK?" she asked.The effect alcohol has on drivers has undergone decades of testing. The thousands of deaths attributed to drunken driving each year also pushed lawmakers and researchers to focus on coming up with a standard as well as increasingly stringent ways to enforce it, officials said.Currently, prosecutors who want to prove drugged driving need to show the driver was under the influence and, as result, couldn't safely operate a vehicle. Prosecutors also need a positive drug test.California has taken a less hard-line approach than that of 15 other states, including Arizona, Nevada and Utah, which have adopted the stance that any detectable level of THC is illegal. Manheimer said lack of a "per se" law, which makes illegal any detectable amount, and the unavailability of a simple roadside test have made it difficult to convict stoned drivers.She predicted the situation will only get worse if voters pass Proposition 19 in November.But Joshua Dale, head of the California DUI Lawyers Association, had this to say about Manheimer's concerns: "It's a bunch of hooey."He said if an officer has made a valid arrest, the jury is good and so is the prosecutor, getting a drugged driving conviction is no easier or harder than in alcohol-related cases. If police want another layer of proof, he said, they should videotape and audio record stops for suspected driving under the influence. The evidence, if shown to a jury, will be enough to get a conviction as long as the person was impaired.It's hard to say how big of a problem drugged driving already is in California because the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't track the issue. But California arrested 214,800 drivers and convicted 162,000 of them of DUI, which includes drugs and alcohol, in 2008 -- the most recent year available.A 2007 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study does give an idea of drug use nationally among drivers. The survey found 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for drugs, including 8.6 percent who were using ?marijuana. The survey also found cocaine in 3.9 percent and over-the-counter and prescription drugs in 3.9 percent.But Dale Gieringer, head of the California wing of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, asks, "So what?"He said marijuana use was twice what it is now in 1979 and there wasn't an epidemic then of stoned drivers running over people or smashing into each other."We've been there before," he said. "There is no difference. Just enforce the law."Source: Daily Democrat (Woodland, CA)Author: Joshua Melvin, MediaNews GroupPublished: September 7, 2010Copyright: 2010 Daily DemocratContact: letters dailydemocrat.comWebsite: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/URL: http://drugsense.org/url/YY87hzV2CannabisNews -- Cannabis Archiveshttp://cannabisnews.com/news/list/cannabis.shtml 
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Comment #13 posted by ekim on September 11, 2010 at 08:34:04 PT
proposed new driving law
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/michigan/news.newsmain/article/1/0/1698579/Michigan.News/Law.would.test.drivers.for.illegal.drugs
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Comment #12 posted by b4daylight on September 10, 2010 at 19:02:17 PT
yea right
What do they do for prescription drugs?"Having a legal THC limit, for driving or public intoxication, hasn't been necessary because marijuana is illegal, said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who also heads the California Police Chiefs Association."So basically when you we don't know how to handle someone's freedom, we ban it and then attack them for simply using it any time before operating an auto?This is why the prohibition doesn't work. They should have standards placed on driving long ago. No one knows what constitutes DUI for drugs, but have no problem throwing them in jail based on our preception. 
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Comment #11 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on September 09, 2010 at 04:37:56 PT
Breathalyzers don't pull people over. Cops do.
By the time a breathalyzer is used, the cop usually has already figured out that they're drunk or at least "buzzed". And people can refuse to take a breath test, and the cops can still arrest them for DUI. And the cops can already arrest someone if they think they are impaired by drugs, even though they don't have any sort of portable test for any drug but alcohol. In fact, a cop can decide that you're too sleepy or angry or grief stricken to drive without needing any sort of test, either.A field sobriety test, or some other test of reflexes and alertness, is a more accurate measure of someone's ability to drive, rather than simply the presence or an arbitrary percentage in the body of any substance.
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Comment #10 posted by keydet46 on September 08, 2010 at 04:29:48 PT:
No test
There is also no "TEST" for reckless operation which carries the same penalty as DUI. This is just an excuse. If somebody is driving recklessly they can be hauled in just the same as anybody impaired.
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Comment #9 posted by afterburner on September 07, 2010 at 23:23:36 PT
Sam Adams #6
"They use federal-law-trumps-state myth again, which is a blatant lie, even Clarence Thomas disagreed."Check out what Americans for Safe Access report in their latest Newsletter:IN "Calif. Appeals Court Nixes Preemption on Dispensaries" ASA reports that the California Appeals Court has ruled that California cities are breaking California law by banning dispensaries (and that they cannot use the federal law trumps state law excuse). See the following link for details: Americans for Safe Access.
A c t i v i s t N e w s l e t t e r.
Defending Patientsí Access to Medical Marijuana.
September 2010. Volume 5, Issue 9
http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/ASA_sept2010_newsletter.pdf
{In This Issue:-ASA Holds Stakeholder Meetings in Michigan, New Jersey.-Calif. Appeals Court Nixes Preemption on Dispensaries.-Congressmen Push Truth in Trials Bill.-California Advocates Concerned Over AG Race.-ACTION ALERT: It's Time for Truth!
	Take action today to protect medical cannabis patients from federal prosecution!
}
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Comment #8 posted by The GCW on September 07, 2010 at 21:01:53 PT
"Who's to say that any level is OK?" I DO!
I'm glad to get this out right away: "just having THC in your system doesn't mean you're too intoxicated to drive."so when San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who also heads the California Police Chiefs Association asks, "Who's to say that any level is OK?" We can point to Steven Gust, an official at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who's quoted as saying, "just having THC in your system doesn't mean you're too intoxicated to drive."-0-& when Manheimer asks, "Who's to say that any level is OK?" I wonder if she also wishes to remove citizens right to use booze??? Is there a level of alcohol use that's ok???-0-Agreed! Alcohol doesn't and shouldn't be compared to cannabis.Rotten food / fresh food. ETC.
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Comment #7 posted by dongenero on September 07, 2010 at 13:32:40 PT
comment #2
The conservatives sure are job killers.Kill the retail business, destroy the landlord's rental income, jeopardize the commercial loan. In one "fiscally conservative" swoop, they lose out on the tax revenue of both the retail business and the landlord's income as well as the real estate tax and leaving the bank with a default if the mortgage goes bad.Brilliant fiscal policy. What is the jobless rate? What is the budget deficit? How many foreclosures?
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on September 07, 2010 at 12:48:59 PT
ABC
pretty funny, the ABC story is classic propaganda. Prop. 19 faces a "difficult road" even though almost every poll shows it ahead.  They equate Prop. 19 to gay marriage TWO times, and in case that message didn't get across, they tell the Tea Bigots that Rand Paul is against it (btw has Ron Paul disowned him yet?)They make sure to mention the words "deviant activity" and "hoax".They use federal-law-trumps-state myth again, which is a blatant lie, even Clarence Thomas disagreed.And of course somehow ABC just KNOWS that Prop. 19 is not getting any attention from young voters! Amazing clairvoyance, considering that said young people won't even have a chance to vote for another 3 months.
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Comment #5 posted by konagold on September 07, 2010 at 12:08:32 PT
FoM
ABC news article on the politics of pothttp://abcnews.go.com/Politics/marijuana-ballot-california-proposition-19-south-dakota-oregon/story?id=11554931&page=2
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Comment #4 posted by keef on September 07, 2010 at 12:02:40 PT
Cannabis and Alcohol are different
Once again citizens are pushed to believe that cannabis and alcohol are similar. Alcohol is a poison, when you are drunk you are literally poisoned. Most people agree that no one should drive under the influence of any drugs, alcohol, or pharmaceuticals. If a person can't pass a simple sobriety test on the side of the road they should be charged with driving under the influence and ticketed. There is no need to go super high tech to create a new system of identifying if someone is high or what name brand alcohol they were drinking.
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Comment #3 posted by NoCowLevel on September 07, 2010 at 09:12:03 PT
The issue with this "problem"
The issue is that we're still viewing marijuana like alcohol, where it makes you completely careless/reckless/etc. It's been shown several times that marijuana, if anything, makes you a more cautious driver. I rather someone be doing 30 mph than 50 mph in a 35 mph zone, wouldn't you? I rather be stuck behind someone under the influence of marijuana at a green light than someone who is intoxicated by alcohol, who speeds off and has a chance of killing someone.I really hope people stop treating marijuana like alcohol.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on September 07, 2010 at 08:34:56 PT
finally, economics
this is what I'm talking about...a report from the real world, where people have to EARN money, instead of just passing taxes and punitive laws......http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10/n730/a08.htmlLeases Go to Pot As L.A. Closes Valley Medical-Marijuana Collectives
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on September 07, 2010 at 08:05:39 PT
another great article on Mexico
this guy tackles our hypocrisy head-on!http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rodriguez-border-20100905,0,3589696.column
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