Study Examines Med Marijuana's Effects on Drivers
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Study Examines Med Marijuana's Effects on Drivers
Posted by CN Staff on October 19, 2016 at 09:57:56 PT
By Alicia Lozano
Source: LA Weekly
California -- Polls suggest a majority of Californians, support legalizing marijuana for recreational use — 58 percent, to be exact, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll. Yet the Automobile Club of Southern California (part of the country-wide American Automobile Association, or AAA) is not among Proposition 64's proponents.Last week, AAA announced its opposition to legalizing cannabis in both California and Maine, which is also voting on recreational pot this year. The Auto Club says weed-related traffic deaths are up in Washington after the state legalized cannabis in 2012.
“The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had recently used marijuana more than doubled after Washington legalized the drug for recreational use. In addition, there is currently no easy way to test whether a driver is impaired by marijuana: Unlike alcohol, it can’t be determined by breath or blood tests,” AAA says on its website.The club goes on to cite “marijuana’s effects on driving,” including difficulty paying attention, slower reaction times, slower decision-making and reduced coordination. AAA admits that “research results are mixed, but some studies have found that using marijuana as much as doubled a driver’s risk of crashing.”Driving under the influence will remain illegal even if Proposition 64 passes. Currently there is no legal limit in California for how much THC can be in your system while behind the wheel, but lawmakers in Sacramento have pondered the question in the past and are likely to revisit the issue again. In Colorado, Washington and other states where weed is nearly legal, drivers are allowed up to five nanograms. Yet, some experts are skeptical of the quantification.“It’s a real challenge,” says Dr. Tom Marcotte, co-director of the University of California at San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. “Most people would say [five nanograms] isn’t a very compelling number. Unlike alcohol, where there is clear correlation and linear effect — you drink more alcohol, your blood alcohol content goes up and you’re more impaired and probably not safe to drive — with cannabis you smoke it, your THC levels in the blood go up really quickly and then they drop really quickly.”THC is a fat-soluble substance that travels through water systems, such as blood, and then settles into fatty environments, like the brain. This makes roadside testing especially complicated. Blood, saliva and urine tests can only measure current THC levels, which aren’t necessarily a good indicator of a driver’s impairment. Until roadside tests can analyze brain tissue on the spot, testing for drugged driving is nearly impossible. Then there are edibles. Food does not travel through the blood, and it can take hours before it's digested and peak THC levels are reached.UCSD is in the early stages of a driving study that could help fill in some of these gray areas. Test subjects will smoke either a placebo or THC joint, and then Marcotte’s team will follow them throughout the day. Their driving performance will be monitored using a simulator in a controlled lab. Blood, urine and breath samples will also be collected, but the key to understanding impaired driving could be the cognitive tests administered by researchers and state-sanctioned drug recognition experts, or DREs. These DREs are law-enforcement officials specially trained to evaluate if someone is under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. They will also be evaluating test subjects in order to develop on-the-spot cannabis impairment guidelines.“With alcohol, you see people staggering, but you don’t see what with cannabis,” Marcotte says, adding that California officials are really interested in seeing whether the current tests they have can be applied to cannabis use.This isn’t the first time Marcotte has studied impaired driving. In fact, in 2011, he looked at the effects prescription drugs, such as sleep aids and anti-depressants, had on drivers. He compared that to so-called stoned driving and found that people swerved the morning after taking Ambien as much as or more than they did two or three hours after smoking pot. But this study, and others like it, didn’t take into account chronic smokers whose tolerance has built up over time. This last variable is also key to determining when someone is too impaired to drive and could hold the key to developing accurate roadside testing.Source: LA Weekly (CA)Author: Alicia Lozano Published: October 19, 2016Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Weekly, Inc.Contact: letters laweekly.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on October 21, 2016 at 11:13:57 PT
So good to see you!And, of course, you're right.
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Comment #5 posted by jetblackchemist on October 20, 2016 at 19:35:38 PT:
Statistical Overdrive
The AAA's statistics are correlation and not direct cause and effect. After legalization many of the states saw a surge in tourism along with many other events connected but not as a direct cause but good enough a reason to those wanting to, deciding to use cannabis as a scapegoat because it is the easiest thing for them to blame and of course prohibitionists are the first to latch onto such erroneous things in their ignorant perpetuation as fact when they are not fact at all.
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Comment #4 posted by MikeEEEEE on October 20, 2016 at 06:28:11 PT
Corporate Weasels 
These guys will always go with the safety speech. They would rather error on the side of safety, but in my opinion, this is an error--corporate weasels don't have to look at the facts or research--they have look like they care. 
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Comment #3 posted by Richard Zuckerman on October 19, 2016 at 23:31:20 PT:
AAA and AARP are kicked out of my house!!
AARP also opposed pot liberation. I'll NEVER subscribe to either company again!
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on October 19, 2016 at 18:46:34 PT
Why don't any of the so called experts
ever see the Fed's on Crash Risk research? Willful ignorance and arrogance! Willful ignorance really stinks! Blind because they refuse to see. Deaf because they refuse to hear. Dang! Dang!"“In the state of California we are going to start losing folks in astronomical numbers before we finally realize maybe we didn’t look at it thoroughly enough,” [Doug Villars, president of the California Assn. of Highway Patrolmen] said."Look at it "Thoroughly" then, Doug Villars! 
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on October 19, 2016 at 10:25:57 PT
2015 NHTSA study
here is a link to the largest study on cannabis driving safety every performed, it showed a 20-times crash risk increase for drunk drivers and zero increased risk for drivers testing positive for cannabis:
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