March 2, 2013

Smoking marijuana and driving — when is it a crime...

... to a state, like Colorado, that legalizes marijuana?
Prosecutors and some lawmakers have long pushed for laws that would set a strict blood-level limit for THC, the key ingredient in cannabis. A driver over the limit would be deemed guilty of driving under the influence, just as with alcohol....
But what's the level that's comparable to the blood alcohol level that's deemed to be too much impairment? It shouldn't just be arbitrary!
Though research and opinions vary widely, studies have shown that smoking marijuana tends to affect spatial perceptions. Drivers might swerve or follow other cars too closely, as well as lose their concentration and suffer from slowed reaction times....

Every state bars driving under the influence. But convictions in drugged-driving cases generally rely on police officers’ observations rather than blood tests. The White House in a drug policy paper last year called on states to adopt blood-limit laws in an effort to reduce drugged-driving incidents by 10 percent by 2015.
There are so many things that impair driving — sleepiness, distraction, low intelligence — why single out anything (including alcohol) for a special law as opposed to relying on observation of actual impaired driving? You could say single out the things that are measurable in the blood. Or you could say: Alcohol deserves to be singled out the way it is because there is a huge, specific, and much-studied problem.

How are people who use marijuana supposed to know when they're over the limit? With alcohol, the products are labeled and there is at least some rough information about the number of drinks and the amount of time that must pass before you can drive. What if you had a drink with dinner and then couldn't figure out whether it was legal to drive the next morning? Isn't that what will happen with marijuana? You'll have no idea what your blood level is, even days later.

Or will there be little blood test kits so you can check? Will the government provide all sorts of labeling requirements for marijuana? They might make legal marijuana production very expensive by requiring predictable calibration of THC and accurate labeling. Then the product could be very expensive, and lots of sales tax could be collected. Isn't that the real puzzle: how to regulate and collect taxes when you've got a product that already thrives as contraband?

25 comments:

Shanna said...

Whenever people talk about driving under this influence my mind goes here.

Shouting Thomas said...

Prosecutors and some lawmakers have long pushed for laws that would set a strict blood-level limit for THC, the key ingredient in cannabis.

aka, "Rent seeking lawyers." They're just trying to help.

Related article, Women Spoiling Men's Fun.

Chinese women are busy trying to sober up Chinese men.

Michael K said...

Private pilots, who know who will be harmed by impaired driving, tend to avoid alcohol for 24 hours before flying. I don't know any who smoke marijuana. Of course, I only know the older ones.

AprilApple said...

Isn't that the real puzzle: how to regulate and collect taxes when you've got a product that already thrives as contraband?

If you can figure out how to grow plants indoors, you can grow your own. How do you regulate that?

THC stays in the blood longer. Days? I'm not sure how long. In other words alcohol and THC are eliminated from the body differently.

Maguro said...

The blood alcohol limits are totally arbitrary, why should THC limits be any different?

AprilApple said...

I'm sure the experts will figure it out. Experts!

edutcher said...

Problem is, you can have one normal-sized drink of anything and not get drunk.

One joint and you're flying.

This is why it was outlawed.

Michael K said...

Private pilots, who know who will be harmed by impaired driving, tend to avoid alcohol for 24 hours before flying. I don't know any who smoke marijuana. Of course, I only know the older ones.

Old line from the Aleutian campaign in WWII:

Pilots were old or bold, never both.

McTriumph said...

edutcher
Have a beer then drive without waiting an hour, you're breaking the law.

Dante said...

Isn't that what will happen with marijuana?

google half life of THC.

It shows the following information:

But THC is detectable in the blood for a short time, usually a few hours because it is rapidly metabolized.

Or will there be little
blood test kits so you can check?

Because marijuana stays in the bloodstream for a short time, blood tests for marijuana are usually not used, except in the case of automobile accidents and some roadside sobriety check points. Blood or saliva tests can show current intoxication. However, unlike blood alcohol concentration tests, they do not indicate a level of intoxication or impairment.

Chuck Currie said...

Boy, I see a market for blood prick/stick meters like the glucose/ketone test kits that will test for alcohol and THC.

Cheers to us all...now to the lab.

Rabel said...

"I go flying so high when I'm stoned."
H. Chapin

The battle between the MADD types and the legalizers will be fun to watch.

Dante said...

As I think about this, isn't this part of trying to define "Perfect Law?"

Give the responsibility back to the cops.

Fernandinande said...

Pot Smokers Drive Fine Far Above Legal THC Limit
"All three of them satisfactorily completed a driving course at THC levels far above the legal limit."

Thanks to the puritans, the evil WOD will never end.

bagoh20 said...

Prohibition of weed would be impossible without flat out lies. Identify the truth, and then make your laws, unless you're scared.

ken in sc said...

It's eight hours from bottle to throttle for pilots. If it was 24 hrs, almost no planes would be in the sky, especially fighter planes. That's in the US. I understand that in France, it is quite common for private pilots to drink while flying--or it was a few years ago.

TMink said...

Interesting question. With alcohol, I agree, the limit is arbitrary. I am a big guy (thought continuing to slim with low carb diet) and .07 for me would be a lot more booze than I should have to drive while a slim friend who drinks more often would be fine.

The states have had to falsify drunk driving statistics by counting as drunk driving deaths all people who died in car accidents where any person, not just the driver, had any trace of alcohol in their system. So if a designated driver is run over by a bus full of sober nuns and all die, they are all drunk driving deaths. Without this lying, there would not be enough drunk driving deaths to get upset about from a statistical point of view.

So how do you determine too stoned to drive? Like with alcohol, tolerance makes a huge difference. A pot head could drive at levels that would trip out the casual user. Of course, due to the manipulation of the drunk driving statistics, it is likely that the governments will not be interested in science and safety, just income from tickets.

Trey

Eric said...

Why the focus on marijuana? There are hundreds of drugs that can get you arrested for "driving under the influence". I doubt they can test for more than a handful.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Michael K, ken in sc:
When I was training for my PP-SEL, my personal rule was 24 hours bottle-to-throttle (and the bottle was beer). My father, a senior NASA pilot, used a 12 hour rule, and his consumption was typically a G&T or a glass of wine.
But drinking WHILE FLYING? Wow.
Flying in CAVU conditions, mostly there's nothing to do. It's much easier than driving a car. No traffic to speak of, autopilot on, etc. But when things go wrong, you're going to need all your brain cycles to stay safe.
Among other things, my father did a lot of accident investigation / re-creation, usually asking the question: Could this failure have been recovered by pilot action? The answer was frequently Yes, but almost always with the caveat that the crew had only a FEW SECONDS to do the RIGHT THINGS to survive.
I just can't wrap my head around the idea that anyone could think that drinking was compatible with piloting.

John said...

Does smoking marijuana cause impaired driving? Are there any studies?

On the other hand, I have seen 2 studies by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as one by the Australian govt (don't remember if it was the national or a state govt) that found no effect.

The US study had drivers actually drive cars around an obstacle course without any MJ and then smoking more and more MJ. The MJ came from a US govt farm in Missouri(?) and THC levels were calibrated.

Anyone have any links to any studies showing impairment?

One of the NHTSA studies is here:

http://www.erowid.org/plants/cannabis/cannabis_driving4.shtml

I've not looked. Is anyone aware of any studies that did show impairment?

Not just suppositions but actual toking up and measuring driving skills.

John Henry

Kirk Parker said...

" It shouldn't just be arbitrary!"

My dear Althouse, these are legislators we are talking about! Legislators!!!


pj (lowercase) said...

Just don't drive when using either of them - AT ALL.

I was hit by a DUI (I'm fine, at least from that) and it was Rx drugs.

I can see that historically there was a time when the highways were open and some guy in a Cadillac built like a TANK could do a little joy riding with a bottle of whiskey, but those days are over. Most cares are made to crumple with a $6000 airbag and don't even have a proper bumper.

Just plan ahead of time not to drive when impaired in any way. That way you don't have to make a decision.



n.n said...

Exactly. Judge them by their actions and outcomes. Unfortunately, it is more profitable to treat symptoms rather than address causes.

Caryl Dawn Tuastomban said...

As we all know driving in the influence of drugs or marijuana is strictly prohibited and puts our life in risk… Why’d they just get that…?

Revenant said...

There are so many things that impair driving — sleepiness, distraction, low intelligence — why single out anything (including alcohol) for a special law as opposed to relying on observation of actual impaired driving?

The answer to that question is this: if you rely on detectable impairment, you aren't able to throw people in prison and confiscate their cars for driving with otherwise-undetectable "impairment".

The California standard is 0.08. At that level of "impairment" you are substantially less "impaired" than a mother with kids in the car, or a person driving home after a hard day's work.

ruzzel01 said...

I will stick on what the expert says.

medical marijuana evaluation peoria