Drugged Driving, Once Again

This is from a work by Robert Frichtel.  “During the past two years, Colorado and Montana, along with more than a dozen other states, have proposed laws that set a strict threshold for determining when a marijuana user is deemed too impaired to drive. These would consider a concentration of more than 5 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) per milliliter of blood, as hands-down proof of intoxication or impairment.
The result would be an automatic guilty verdict, with all that entails: a temporary loss of driving privileges, fines, lawyer’s fees, possible jail time and greatly increased insurance premiums. By some estimates, a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can cost a driver as much as $10,000. Several states are going further and have either adopted or are considering zero-tolerance laws for THC levels. This means any THC in the blood would result in a conviction.

Here’s the problem with these laws: There are questions about how, and at what level, cannabis use impairs driving ability. For a patient in one of the 17 states where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal use, how are you to know when it’s legal to drive? After consuming marijuana, should you wait 12 hours to drive or one day? When will your THC level be below the 5-nanogram threshold? The answer is complicated.

Testing done on drivers under the influence of alcohol often show that drivers display more aggressive behavior behind the wheel, and errors are more pronounced than when sober. The opposite tends to be true when drivers are under the influence of THC; they tend to have heightened awareness — rather than diminished sensitivity as they do after drinking — to their surroundings. As a result, they tend to compensate by driving more cautiously.

A 2007 control study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reviewed 10 years of U.S. auto-fatality data. Investigators found that U.S. drivers with blood-alcohol levels of 0.05 percent — a level below the national 0.08 percent legal limit — were three times as likely to have been driving unsafely before a fatal crash, compared with individuals who tested positive for marijuana.

What this means is that we need more research before new DUI marijuana laws are enacted. Setting an absolute impairment standard for THC bloodstream levels is premature. And these laws, which target marijuana use and associated medical marijuana patients, are discriminatory. I say this at a time when there is an absence of legislation dealing with the use and well-documented abuse of prescription painkillers, which can dangerously impair the judgment needed for safe driving. State legislatures aren’t setting arbitrary and scientifically unproven blood-level standards for these drugs. So why are they focused on marijuana?
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Mr. Frichtel’s longer article will bring you up to date on the drugged driving issue. It’s good to be informed. Find this excellent work here.

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Author: DavidB

a heathen, but hopefully not an unenlightened one

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