Impaired Reasoning

Impaired Reasoning
Posted by CN Staff on June 28, 2006 at 08:13:29 PT
By Alan Reynolds 
Source: Town 
Washington, DC -- A police officer pulls you over at a checkpoint and asks, "Have you been drinking?" Assuming he wants to know whether you have consumed alcohol in the last few hours, such that it might be affecting your ability to drive, you say no. "Not at all?" he asks. Well, you admit, you did have a beer the night before, whereupon he arrests you for driving under the influence. If that scenario makes sense to you, you should have no problem with Michigan's new policy regarding driving and drug use.
As recently interpreted by the state Supreme Court, Michigan law prohibits marijuana smokers from driving long after the drug's psychoactive effects have disappeared. A dozen states have similar policies, and federal drug officials think all of them should, which would in effect revoke or periodically suspend the driver's licenses of more than 25 million Americans. Michigan law bars someone from driving "if the person has in his or her body any amount of a controlled substance listed in schedule 1," which includes marijuana, THC (marijuana's main active ingredient), and their "derivatives." So even before last week's decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, unimpaired drivers could be arrested with tiny, inconsequential traces of THC in their blood. In contrast with this "zero tolerance" rule, the legal cutoff for drinkers is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent. The Michigan Supreme Court made the double standard worse by declaring that 11-carboxy-THC, a nonpsychoactive marijuana metabolite that can remain in a person's blood or urine for days or weeks, counts as a forbidden THC "derivative." The upshot is that many regular marijuana smokers can never legally drive in Michigan, whether they're intoxicated or not, while occasional smokers are barred from driving for days after each dose. "It is irrelevant that an 'ordinary' marijuana smoker allegedly does not know that 11-carboxy-THC could last in his or her body for weeks," the court said. "It is also irrelevant that a person might not be able to drive long after any possible impairment from ingesting marijuana has worn off." The four judges in the majority bent over backward to reach this bizarre conclusion. They cited several definitions of "derivative" that could be read to include 11-carboxy-THC, most of which also would render ubiquitous chemicals such as carbon dioxide "controlled substances," meaning that no one would be allowed to drive. They chose the one definition of "derivative" that avoided this absurd result while still allowing 11-carboxy-THC to be counted as a disqualifying blood contaminant. The three dissenters noted that such a conclusion is contrary to the law's intent (to protect the public from impaired drivers) and inconsistent with state and federal criteria for Schedule I substances (which are supposed to be psychoactive chemicals or precursors to them). They also argued that the ruling results in an unconstitutionally vague law that invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Given variations in metabolism and laboratory standards, marijuana smokers can never be sure whether they're legally permitted to drive in Michigan. The statute as interpreted by the Michigan Supreme Court therefore does not give people enough information to know when they are violating it -- a basic requirement of due process and the rule of law. Treating unimpaired drivers as if they were intoxicated is fundamentally unfair, and treating a drug metabolite with no pharmacological action like the drug itself makes no sense if the goal is preventing accidents. But the drug warriors who see Michigan as a model for the nation have other goals in mind. Proponents of "zero tolerance" laws such as drug testing consultant J. Michael Walsh and former federal drug czar Robert DuPont see them as a way of deterring drug use and forcing users into "treatment." If the point is to make the penalties for smoking marijuana more severe, let's have a debate about that, instead of pretending the issue is traffic safety. Copyright: 2006 Creators Source: Town (DC)Author: Alan ReynoldsPublished: June 28, 2006Copyright: 2006 King Features SyndicateContact: info Website: Justice Archives
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Comment #10 posted by billos on June 29, 2006 at 14:16:56 PT
           This Congress
Doesn't give two hoots about the people.......if it has anything to do with trying to enforce "The WoD" they will let it stand.Had enough?//
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Comment #9 posted by afterburner on June 29, 2006 at 10:53:04 PT
The Detroit News Fights Back!
US MI: Editorial: Legislators Should Revise Law on Pot and Driving, Detroit News, (28 Jun 2006)
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Comment #8 posted by Wayne on June 28, 2006 at 21:15:20 PT
zero tolerance for scams
I live in Florida. I was visiting family in Indiana last weekend, and was rather surprised at the number of public service billboards I saw regarding drugs. One of the most striking ones said "Buzzed driving is drunk driving." What a crock of s*** THAT is. Though I'm not necessarily proud of it, and definitely NOT advocating it, I have driven under the influence of several substances, including alcohol, marijuana, and prescription painkillers, and combinations of the three. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that marijuana doesn't even hold a candle to the others. In fact, one night, after smoking pot earlier, I drove my girlfriend home, and she told me she was surprised at what a good safe job of driving I did.If this was even remotely about traffic safety, the police would have long ago started rounding up all those depressed drivers and surgery patients loaded up on Paxil and Vicodin. You Michiganders should mention that to your legislators and see what they say.
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Comment #7 posted by mayan on June 28, 2006 at 14:36:56 PT
Remember these names.Chief Justice Clifford TaylorJustice Maura CorriganJustice Robert Young Jr. Justice Stephen Markman Remember the enemies of freedom.
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on June 28, 2006 at 10:54:48 PT
I heard that it probably wouldn't be until tonight sometime.
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on June 28, 2006 at 10:53:19 PT
Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment 
I have hope...even though we are cautioned not to. I have hope. Anyone finds out when they start debating this...and especially voting on it...let the rest of us know, please.I've got to have a good, "right then" reason to wrestle for control of the TV.
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Comment #4 posted by Max Flowers on June 28, 2006 at 09:48:46 PT
Hinchey-Rohrabacher, that is
Sometimes I get so into a news post in the comments that I post a reaction, forgetting that it was not the main news item at the top of the page!
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Comment #3 posted by afterburner on June 28, 2006 at 09:47:51 PT
MI's Absurd Zero Tolerance Impaired Driving Law
If Montel Williams were to drive a rent-a-car in Detroit, even though they have a Medical Marijuana law, he could be busted for driving impaired, if he had used his medical cannabis to treat his MS during the last month.If Russell Barth, (Canadian Federal Medical Marijuana Exemptee, co-author of Mommy’s Funny Medicine, and volunteer with Educators For Sensible Drug Policy), were to drive across the Ambassador Bridge from Ontario to Michigan, he too could be charged as an impaired driver under this harsh Michigan law and Michigan Supreme Court ruling if he had treated his fibromyalgia during the preceding month.The same could happen to Alison Myrden, Canadian Federal Medical Marijuana Exemptee and LEAP speaker, if she were to visit the "Land of the Free" by car after medicating her Multiple Sclerosis (MS) any time during the previous month.If Irv Rosenfeld, U.S. Federal Medical Marijuana Exemptee, (who uses medical marijuana to alleviate the pain from a rare bone disorder he suffers from called multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, which is marked by bony protrusions in the body's long bones), were to drive in Michigan, he too could be charged as an impaired driver under Michigan's absurd zero tolerance impaired driving law.
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Comment #2 posted by Max Flowers on June 28, 2006 at 09:46:03 PT
If Congress has a shred of compassion
...they will pass this. Its time has come. It should have happened long ago, obviously, but now its time is really here. People are already doing this, people want and need this. L.A. now has a profusion of medical clubs that surpasses even what we have in the Bay area (the old L.A./Bay area rivalry to see who's more "cutting edge" continues ever strong!).And if Congress has an ounce of fiscal common sense, they will pass this. This is one thing they could do to begin to amend for the crime of letting Bush and his crew loot the treasury.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 28, 2006 at 08:34:58 PT
Press Release from MPP
Conservative Support Grows for Medical Marijuana Amendment
Vote Expected Today or Thursday***June 28, 2006 WASHINGTON D.C. -- A leading conservative organization, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), has come out in support of an amendment to stop the Drug Enforcement Administration from attacking medical marijuana patients in states where medical use of marijuana is legal. The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to the Science-State-Justice-Commerce appropriations bill, sponsored by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), could receive a floor vote as early as today.CAGW's report, "Wasted in the War on Drugs," released Monday and available online at: slams the federal government for "using valuable taxpayer dollars to track down and persecute medical marijuana patients that are using the drug legally in their state," and calling such efforts "useless." The report, which comes on the heels of a letter sent to members of Congress by a coalition of conservative groups condemning the government for wasting money attacking medical marijuana patients, concludes, "If passed, the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment would free up federal dollars for more important priorities and help to restore a proper division of power between the state and federal governments."The Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment would bar the Justice Department from using its funds to interfere with the medical marijuana laws now in effect in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. It would not impact states which do not have medical marijuana laws. A national Gallup poll released in November 2005 found that 78 percent of voters favor allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana "to reduce pain and suffering.""We are excited by the groundswell of support for this sensible, humane measure," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C. "This week's vote will be a test of whether House members are truly listening to their constituents." MPP organized a grassroots push for the amendment, which included face-to-face meetings with over 250 congressional offices, phone calls, and connecting over 3,000 constituents with their representatives' offices via MPP's online system.With more than 20,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org
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