Sessions’ Weed Adviser Wants Doctors to Drug-Test Everyone

A top adviser on marijuana policy to Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to see doctors make drug testing a routine part of primary care medicine and force some users into treatment against their will, he told The Daily Beast.

Dr. Robert DuPont was among a small group of drug policy experts invited to a closed-door meeting with Sessions last month to discuss federal options for dealing with the rapid liberalization of state marijuana laws. California became the sixth state to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use on Jan. 1.

DuPont, 81, is one of the most influential drug warriors of the past century. He began his career as a liberal on drug control in the 1970s, calling then for the decriminalization of marijuana possession and launching the first U.S. methadone treatment program for heroin in Washington, D.C. in 1971. By the 1980s, he shifted to the right, popularizing the claim marijuana was a “gateway drug.”

At the Dec. 2017 meeting with Sessions, DuPont was slated to present on “the effect of marijuana on drugged driving,” a topic on which he has proposed some radical ideas.

A national model bill he helped write in 2010 called on law enforcement to test anyone stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence for all controlled substances, and arresting them if any trace at all shows up in their system—regardless of the amount. While the bill includes an exemption for drivers who consumed a drug pursuant to a prescription, it would not apply to medicinal marijuana users since doctors are not currently allowed to prescribe pot, only offer a recommendation for its use.

The bill’s language makes clear that these people will still face sanction even if they live in a state where medical marijuana is legal.

“[The] fact that any person charged with violating this subsection is or was legally entitled to consume alcohol or to use a controlled substance, medication, drug or other impairing substance, shall not constitute a defense against any charge,” it reads.

But even that’s not the worst of it.

The bill includes a section prohibiting the “Internal Possession of Chemical or Controlled Substances.”

“Any person who provides a bodily fluid sample containing any amount of a chemical or controlled substance…commits an offense punishable in the same manner as if the person otherwise possessed that substance,” it reads, adding in a footnote: “This provision is not a DUI specific law. Rather, it applies to any person who tests positive for chemical or controlled substances.”

Asked to comment on whether Sessions was aware of DuPont’s proposal to penalize drug users who may not even be under the influence behind the wheel, and if he supports it, a Justice Department spokesperson chose to focus on the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

“The Controlled Substances Act was enacted by Congress to comprehensively restrict and regulate numerous drugs, including marijuana,” said DOJ Spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam, in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “Further, the Attorney General agrees with the Center for Disease Control that driving while impaired by marijuana is dangerous as it negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving.”

‘Futile’ for Addicts to Help Themselves

On closer inspection, DuPont’s proposal is part of a plan to expand the use of drug testing technology to root out users, and the threat of prosecution to compel them into treatment where they will be tested even more.

Early last year, The Daily Beast conducted a lengthy interview with DuPont as he was shopping around a radical proposal to address America’s festering overdose crisis called the “New Paradigm for Long-Term Recovery.” It would include a massive expansion of drug testing in addiction medicine.

“Drug testing is the technology of addiction medicine, but it’s under-utilized,” he said. “We want [drug screens] to be routine in all medicine. The health care sector in general should approach addiction in the same way as diabetes, and that includes monitoring. Doctors already check for things like cholesterol and blood sugar, why not test for illicit drugs?”

Calling his platform “the opposite of harm reduction,” DuPont said the goal of his plan is to promote “long-term results…and greater accountability” in the treatment sector.

Among other things he proposed giving doctors the authority to compel suspected substance abusers into treatment against their will. Once in treatment, patients could face up to five years of monitoring, including random drug tests.

“People don’t understand that referral to treatment is futile for an addict on their own,” DuPont told The Daily Beast. “Right now the public really thinks that if we provide treatment the addicts will come and get well…that’s not true. So let’s use the leverage of the criminal justice system, that’s what the programs in the New Paradigm want to do.”

Turning a Profit Off Drug Testing

DuPont presents his proposal as evidence-based, but it’s hard to separate his strong promotion of drug testing from his close personal and financial connections to the drug testing industry.

In the 1970s he was the nation’s drug czar under Nixon and Ford, and was the first Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, until his increasingly radical views (he called for drug testing all parolees and sending them back to prison if they failed) forced his resignation in 1978.

After leaving federal service, DuPont joined the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Pete Bensinger, to cash in on urine testing. The firm they founded, Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, provided drug testing services to some of America’s largest corporations.

In 1991, while running the firm, DuPont introduced the idea of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients in a policy document published by the Heritage Foundation. DuPont recommended “not only testing the adults on public assistance but also their children.”

Later that decade, DuPont co-authored research with the founder of a firm called Psychemedics promoting the company’s new hair testing technology.

In 2000, while he was a shareholder and a paid consultant for the company DuPont testified before a Food & Drug Administration panel on drug testing where he advocated for expanding hair testing into federal workplaces. Dismissing the appearance of a “conflict of interest” DuPont told the panel: “I don’t think of myself as an employee or an advocate particularly for Psychemedics, but for drug testing generally.”

The FDA approved the company’s first hair follicle test two years later, and today Psychemedics is a multi-million dollar a year business that’s in the process of a profitable expansion into South America.

This is a running theme for DuPont. For instance, Stephen Talpins, an attorney who helped DuPont author his model drugged driving bill, formerly was a vice president at Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc., which makes the SCRAM alcohol and location monitoring system used by many courts.

Now DuPont is listed as a scientific adviser on the website of global drug-testing startup called CAM International Ventures. That company was founded in 2013 by David Martin, former president of the Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association, and includes among its staff other prominent members of the drug testing industry.

Still, DuPont rejects the idea that there is any financial motivation behind his fixation drug testing.

“I find it bizarre to think that my interests after all these years were financial,” he told The Daily Beast. “I just think, there is a financial incentive in drug testing, but the reason I’m interested in drug testing is that there is an interest from the disease standpoint.”

With a dozen more states expected to consider legal marijuana measures in 2018, and even Republican lawmakers like Trey Gowdy questioning the federal government’s hard stance on the drug, it’s unlikely even a die hard anti-pot crusader like DuPont can turn back the tide, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make a few more bucks trying.

https://amp.thedailybeast.com/jeff-sessions-marijuana-adviser-wants-doctors-to-drug-test-everyone

Democrats running for Massachusetts governor in 2018 hope to repeal mandatory minimum sentences

The Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee hosted the three Democratic candidates for Governor Wednesday night. Committeee chair Candy Glazer, second from with the candidates Jay Gonzalez,left, Bob Massie and Setti Warren, right.The event was held at the Greenwood Center.   (MARK M.MURRAY/THE REPUBLICAN)
The Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee hosted the three Democratic candidates for Governor Wednesday night. Committeee chair Candy Glazer, second from with the candidates Jay Gonzalez,left, Bob Massie and Setti Warren, right.The event was held at the Greenwood Center.

All three of the Democrats running for governor in 2018 support repealing some mandatory minimum sentences, but they differ on exactly which ones to repeal.

Criminal justice reform is going to be a major priority for the Legislature in 2018, even before voters decide whether to replace Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is running for re-election. The House and Senate both passed versions of a criminal justice bill that, among other things, would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

But where the Democratic candidates stand could be relevant if the House and Senate fail to reach a compromise next year or if activists push for further changes in 2019 or beyond.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren favors a similar policy to what lawmakers are considering: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. These are typically drug dealers.

“As opposed to putting them in the criminal justice system, let’s put people in treatment,” Warren said.

“What we know is evidence-based research that shows that mandatory minimums do not reduce criminal activity nor does it address the crisis in opioids we have here in the state of Massachusetts,” Warren said.

Former health insurance executive and state budget chief Jay Gonzalez wants to go further and eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder. These would include firearms crimes, operating under the influence and stalking, which all have mandatory minimums under certain circumstances.

“We should eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences except for murder and let judges do their jobs and take the individual circumstances of every particular case into account in determining the right sentence for that person,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said the current system is not rational. For example, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for rape but there is for less serious offenses.

“The truth is we have them for some and not for others,” Gonzalez said.

He noted that there is also a significant racial disparity, where the people most likely to be hurt by mandatory minimum sentences are black and Hispanic.

Environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie said he opposes mandatory minimum sentences, except “maybe” for the most violent crimes. “Discretion should belong to the judge,” Massie said.

In general, all the Democrats support policies that would result in fewer people being incarcerated.

Warren said it is important that people with nonviolent drug problems are diverted out of the criminal justice system and into treatment. He wants to ensure that people in jail have access to any necessary mental health or substance abuse treatment. And, he said, it is important to provide support services, such as help finding jobs, to people who have been released from jail.

Gonzalez said although Massachusetts has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the U.S., rates are still higher than in many countries. “We need to be focused much more on addressing the underlying causes of crime,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez supports investing more money in diversionary programs and specialty courts to keep people who need services like drug addiction treatment out of the criminal justice system. He supports more programming to help former inmates be successful when they reenter society.

Gonzalez also supports eliminating cash bail and reforming fees and fines to make sure the state is not incarcerating people solely because they are poor.

Massie similarly favors reforming the justice system in ways that lock up fewer people and make it easier for prisoners to rejoin society. “We need to rethink what it is we expect prisons to do — lock people up or move them through a process where they can re-enter society,” Massie said.

Massie wants to see more addiction treatment and education in the prison system. He believes solitary confinement should be eliminated as a “form of torture.”

Warren and Gonzalez both opposed marijuana legalization, but now say the state must act to implement the law as efficiently as possible. Massie supported legalizing marijuana.

https://articles.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/12/democrats_running_for_governor_3.amp

Boy, 11, loses arm when dad, accused of 4th OWI, crashed early Christmas morning

An 11-year-old boy lost an arm when his father, who is accused of driving under the influence, crashed into trees early Monday morning.

Jeremy Froemming, 38, told an officer he took three different types of pills Sunday afternoon.

He crashed into trees near Highway 67 and Highway D in the town of Ottawa at about 1:30 a.m.

Both Froemming and his son were trapped inside.

The boy was flown by Flight for Life to Children’s Hospital, where he remains, but doctors were unable to save his arm.

Court documents show Froemming has three prior OWI offense. He is charged with intoxicated use of a vehicle — great bodily harm and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated — fourth offense, with a minor child in the vehicle.

http://www.wisn.com/article/boy-11-loses-arm-when-dad-accused-of-4th-owi-crashed-early-christmas-morning/14512190

Simulator aims to help police test whether a person is too high to drive

The new year will mark the official start of recreational marijuana sales in California, and there are fears it could lead to more impaired driving. Among U.S. drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs, more than a third in 2015 had used marijuana.

At the University of California San Diego, researchers are trying to help police detect whether a person is too high to get behind the wheel.

ctm-1220-recreational-pot-ucsd-driving-test.jpg
At the University of California San Diego, researchers are using a simulator to help police detect whether a person is too high to get behind the wheel.CBS News

When you drive on Marcotte’s simulator, he’s not checking how good a driver you are – but how bad a driver you may become high on pot.
 
“The idea of the off ramp is actually something that the police suggested to you,” CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen said.

“Because in their estimation, that’s one of the areas that are most difficult for impaired drivers to handle,” Marcotte responded.
 
The real test subjects light up, some with a real joint, others with a placebo. Then they are put through the simulator challenges like deciding whether it’s safe to drive through a yellow light. They also face a multi-tasking test: finding the right circle.

It’s all designed to eventually create a tool, perhaps a tablet test, that police can use roadside to determine if someone is too stoned to drive.

“The ultimate outcome is to see whether or not we can really help law enforcement separate those people who are impaired due to cannabis or those people who may have cannabis in their system and are not impaired,” Marcotte said.

Unlike alcohol, there is no accepted marijuana breathalyzer. Blood tests can be inconclusive depending on when the test is taken. To make it more complicated, pot affects different people differently.

“There are indications that the more experienced you are, the more tolerance you develop,” Marcotte said.

“So a person who smokes a lot might actually have less effect when it comes to driving?” Petersen asked.

“That’s correct. Because their body is adjusted to it, they know what to expect,” Marcotte said.

California Highway Patrol’s Sgt. Glen GlaserJr. teaches officers how to recognize a driver under the influence.

“How much does this end up making a kind of a judgment call, if that’s the right word?” Petersen asked.

“Well, I think it very much is a judgment call because we want our officers only arresting people who are impaired,” Glaser said.

Right now officers mostly rely on subjective observations like walking the line and “is there a pot smell in the car?”

While a lot of Californians are looking forward to January 1 when recreational marijuana goes on sale, Glaser and police across the state are braced.

“The big scare is going to be those people who are going to try for the first time come January 1 and not knowing how it affects their body,” Glaser said.
 
One day, the simulator may lead to an answer and help catch someone impaired by pot before getting too high gets someone hurt.

https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/california-recreational-weed-driving-high-ucsd-test/

Police to be first in state to try new test for drug-using drivers

Police face an increasingly common challenge: how to tell if a driver is high.

As states legalize marijuana use, opioid abuse runs rampant, the methamphetamine crisis continues and new synthetic drugs hit the streets, law enforcement authorities say it’s more common than ever to encounter motorists who are under the influence.

In response, police are pioneering a new generation of chemical tests designed to detect drugs quickly in drivers’ bodies, eventually during a roadside stop. They’re like breath tests for alcohol, but they use mouth swabs to screen for at least a half dozen other drugs.

One west suburban department plans in the coming months to start testing suspect drivers for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines and opiates like heroin.

Carol Stream police, who are known for their aggressive enforcement of drunken-driving laws, say they’re expanding their attention to drugs because they see the effects on drivers but aren’t always sure which drug is involved. It’s believed to be the first agency in the state to try the new driver drug tests.

“If it’s going to be like a breath test, that’s a game-changer,” Sgt. Brian Cluever said. “If we can make our roads safer, we want to do that.”

Police in California, Colorado, Kansas and Michigan, as well as Australia and many European countries, are already using or testing such devices. But critics, like some marijuana proponents and civil rights advocates, question how well the tests work and whether they’ll be used properly.

Defense attorney Don Ramsell, for one, is skeptical. He says judges have yet to certify that the tests are accurate.

“They might just as well hand somebody a bag of nachos and see if he eats it,” said Ramsell, who specializes in driving under the influence law. “That’s just as valid.”

Ultimately, the debate over whether roadside drug tests can be used to help arrest drivers will probably end up in court.

Unprecedented rise in drugged driving

Alcohol has long been the leading mind-altering hazard on the road, involved in about 10,000 driving deaths each year. A lengthy public campaign to reduce drunken driving and increase the use of seat belts and air bags has cut the number of deaths by half since the early 1980s.

A variety of devices were invented to test drivers for alcohol, including the Drunkometer, Intoximeter and Breathalyzer. Police began widespread use of portable breath-testing devices in the 1980s.

But in 2015, for the first time, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes nationwide who tested positive for drugs surpassed the number of drivers who had alcohol in their systems, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Some states that legalized marijuana use saw marked increases. After Colorado made cannabis legal for medical and recreational use, the number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled since 2013, according to published reports.

Those numbers do not prove the drivers involved were impaired, because remnants of marijuana can remain in the body for days or weeks after use. Only some of the drivers involved in crashes were tested, and the amount of drugs present might not have been enough to play a role.

But traffic officers say they increasingly see people on the road who appear to be on something — in many cases prescription drugs, which are also illegal if they impair driving.

Looking at fatal crashes in Illinois, it appears more people are driving with drugs in their systems. While the percentage of crashes involving alcohol dropped 30 percent from 2007 through last year, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana tripled in that same time, to almost 15 percent, according to Illinois Department of Transportation figures.

As a result, companies like Draeger, headquartered in Germany, and Alere, owned by north suburban Abbott Laboratories, are marketing testing devices to law enforcement.

The companies claim a high degree of accuracy. A 2015 study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found the Draeger DrugTest 5000 accurately predicted the presence of a drug 93 percent of the time. But other studies have found varying degrees of success, depending on the device.

In Michigan last month, state police started a one-year pilot program of saliva roadside testing in five counties. State lawmakers passed a law authorizing the program, with a fine for drivers who refuse the test, Michigan State Police First Lt. Jim Flegel said.

Police will compare the test results from the Alere DDS2 device with a second swab that will be tested at an independent laboratory, and with a blood draw, which if refused can lead to a license suspension. The program is off to a promising start, and if testing proves accurate after one year, it can be continued and expanded to other counties, and hopefully ultimately introduced as evidence in court, Flegel said.

A ‘game-changer’

Under current Illinois law, police may seek a blood, urine or breath sample if they suspect a driver is impaired by a controlled substance, and a driver can face a one-year license suspension for refusing. But such tests are cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming, often requiring a trip to the hospital, and often take an hour or two, by which time the body may have eliminated the drug.

In contrast, the new type of test is designed to be easy, quick and portable. And rather than simply giving a positive or negative result, as many current blood tests do, the device that Carol Stream police plan to test, called P.I.A.2 , gives measurements for the amount of drugs present.

That’s important, because while Illinois used to define impairment as having any amount of cannabis or other controlled substance in the body, last year lawmakers raised that minimum threshold to 5 nanograms per milliliter in the blood, and 10 ng/mL in other bodily fluids.

But the Illinois State Police crime laboratory is not certified to give such precise measurements, and local police agencies say it can take months to process a request. Therefore, police sometimes send samples to private labs, which can be quicker but also costlier.

That’s where the new field test comes in. For drivers who submit to a blood draw, Carol Stream police plan to ask them also to volunteer for the mouth swab, not for use in court, but simply to compare its accuracy to the lab test. The department plans to conduct at least 100 comparisons over the next year, beginning around March.

Testing devices can cost $3,000 to $6,000, but the manufacturer of the unit in question, a German company called Protzek, will provide it for free to the village. Officials claim its accuracy is comparable to state-of-the-art laboratory techniques.

Len Jonker, president of Judicial Testing Systems, the distributor for Protzek here, said he is in talks about supplying the device to other law enforcement agencies in Illinois as well.

The tests have been challenged in some state courts but have been upheld as a preliminary step to establish probable cause to make an arrest, according to the National District Attorneys Association.

Still, the tests cannot yet be used as conclusive evidence in court, and still require a blood draw for confirmation, the prosecutors reported.

Dan Linn, executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Illinois NORML, said he welcomes the test for accuracy.

“We advocate for legalizing cannabis, but that does not mean we advocate people driving impaired by cannabis,” he said. “The bigger question is, who is driving impaired, and who just has cannabis in their systems.”

Illinois law has zero tolerance for driving on controlled substances other than marijuana, meaning any amount is enough to convict someone of DUI.

Yet unlike alcohol, which has been shown to cause impairment at a blood alcohol level of 0.08, no numeric levels have been established to show impairment from various drugs, because their effects vary so widely from person to person, depending in part on the user’s tolerance.

That’s why Linn believes it’s better to have trained police officers try to assess from direct observations whether a driver is impaired.

Police and prosecutors agree, and for that reason call for more training of officers as drug recognition experts, or DREs. While the standard field sobriety test — where drivers are asked to walk in a straight line and turn around, stand on one leg and close their eyes and touch their nose — was designed primarily to detect the influence of alcohol, the DRE test uses more subtle signs to try to detect drugs.

Dilated or constricted pupils, incomplete or repetitive speech, tremors in the eyelids or hands, odors, high pulse or body temperature, nervousness or lack of inhibition may all be considered signs of impairment from various drugs.

Processing a DUI arrest is time-consuming, and the new law that set the cannabis intoxication standard on driving under the influence states that police must take a blood sample within two hours. Police say that’s often impractical or impossible, especially in rural areas far from a hospital.

That’s why interest is so high in finding a quick technological fix.

‘If they can prove it … then bring it’

Police are free to try out drug-detecting devices, but to get them authorized for use as evidence, they typically have to be assessed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, then be approved as administrative rules changes by the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, state police Master Sgt. Matthew Boerwinkle said. That process could take months or years.

In addition, to be accepted in court, any new type of scientific evidence in Illinois generally must pass a Frye test, a judicial hearing to establish whether the technique is generally accepted as reliable by the scientific community in that field.

But Ramsell, the DUI attorney, cautions that many types of prior forensics evidence, from shoe prints to bite marks to signs of arson, have been undermined, and any new test deserves rigorous research by scientists, not police.

“If they want to turn citizens into rhesus monkeys, I am not volunteering,” Ramsell said. “But I’m all for science. If they can prove it in court, then bring it.”

He also accused police of wanting to raise more money in court fines. Last year, Carol Stream, which prosecutes many DUI cases itself, reported collecting $261,000 in court fines from DUI cases, plus another $300,000 in towing fees and $363,000 in circuit court fines for a variety of offenses.

While suburban police do not have to fight the amount of violent crime seen in Chicago, Cluever said his officers prioritize aggressive traffic stops to save lives and prevent other crimes, not to raise revenue. Initially, the tests will be done at the police station, but eventually, officers hope to use them on the roadside.

“If you’re driving impaired,” Cluever said, “we’re doing everything we can to keep you off the road.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-police-drug-driving-test-20171205-story,amp.html

A plume of marijuana smoke, erratic driving lead to arrest in Westport on drugged driver charge

WESTPORT — Police arrested an Acushnet man on charges of driving under the influence of marijuana after a motor vehicle stop Monday night in Westport.

The arresting Westport officer, Jarrod Levesque, is a certified Drug Recognition Expert trained to focus on drug-related impairments, said Westport police Detective Jeff Majewski.

“DREs are becoming more valuable in recent months since marijuana legalization has increased recreational drug use, which has carried over to an increase locally of drugged driving,” Majewski said in prepared remarks.

Majewski said Raymond Morin, 35, of 16 Helen St. in Acushnet, was charged with operating under the influence of drugs and issued a $500 dollar violation for having an open container of marijuana inside a vehicle.

Around 7:35 p.m. on Monday, Majewski said Levesque observed a vehicle traveling west on State Road with its left directional on for several hundred feet passing four possible turn offs or breaks in the median. The vehicle was traveling approximately 28 miles per hour in a posted 55-mile-per-hour zone, Majewski said.

At the intersection of Gifford Road and State Road, Majewski said the operator turned south onto Gifford Road. Just as he passed the driveway to CVS, Morin then allegedly stopped his vehicle abruptly in the travel lane blocking the road.

Levesque approached the driver, who when he lowered the window “a cloud of marijuana smoke plumed from the vehicle.” Majewski said the officer also saw marijuana crumbs and residue in the driver’s lap.

Morin allegedly had difficulty producing his Registry of Motor Vehicle documents and was instructed to exit the vehicle to perform roadside assessment tests. Morin told the officer that he had smoked a marijuana blunt. He was arrested when he failed the sobriety tests, Majewski said.

Inside Morin’s vehicle, the police located a small quantity of marijuana in a Tupperware container, Majewski said.

Majewski said Levesque completed an in-depth evaluation of Morin. Majewski said indicators of drug impairment include the presence of body tremors, eyelid tremors, poor perception of time and distance, dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure, elevated pulse and poor completion of hand eye coordination assessments.

http://www.heraldnews.com/news/20171212/plume-of-marijuana-smoke-erratic-driving-lead-to-arrest-in-westport-on-drugged-driver-charge

Cannabis sales must avoid mistakes made by alcohol deregulation

University of Alberta professor Dr. Elaine Hyshka says the Alberta government needs to make sure it sets proper regulations for looming cannabis legalization.

University of Alberta professor Dr. Elaine Hyshka says the Alberta government needs to make sure it sets proper regulations for looming cannabis legalization. (The Canadian Press)

As the province begins developing a framework for legalizing cannabis, a University of Alberta doctor said she hopes Alberta learns from past mistakes with alcohol deregulation.

Dr. Elaine Hyshka said the government has some decisions to make before legalization takes place on July 1.

“I’ll be watching to see how government maintains control over things like price, advertising and marketing, the density of outlets and other factors that really are critical for really trying to encourage moderate use,” Hyshka told CBC’s Radio Active Wednesday.

Hyshka is speaking at the University of Alberta Thursday about what the Cannabis Act means for Canadians. The presentation at 5 p.m. will be livestreamed on their website.

She said Alberta’s cannabis price point can’t be so low people are encouraged to use it, nor can it be so high that users turn to the black market for cheaper prices.

Ontario has proposed a $10 per gram price, which, with the proposed federal tax plan, would cost $11 in Alberta. A mid-level dealer in Calgary told CBC News in October that he typically sells for anywhere between $6 and $8 a gram.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci has rejected the federal cannabis tax plan and the Alberta government has not set a price yet.

Hyshka said she’ll also be watching how many stores selling cannabis will be allowed in a particular area. She said the amount of liquor stores on every corner, some of which are open until 2 a.m., is a mistake the government shouldn’t repeat.

Elaine Hyshka

Hyshka says restrictions should be placed on marketing and advertising cannabis. (CBC )

“Although cannabis as a substance is less harmful than alcohol, we’d be wanting to see some new restrictions put in place that really set the standard for how we regulate psychoactive substances,” she said.

She also hopes marketing of the product is restricted to prevent influencing a new generation of cannabis users.

“[Hopefully, we] don’t go out of the way to stimulate a new market or stimulate a new demand for what is not a harmless substance,” she said.

Cannabis still ‘liberally available’

Hyshka said that though there are documented benefits of cannabis, such as for those in chronic pain, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful — or, in the case of impaired driving, dangerous.

But she said concerns raised recently by the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police about impaired driving, while valid, are not new.

“It’s important to remember that cannabis is liberally available right now through the illegal market and many people are using it and some people are driving while impaired,” she said.

“Enforcing cannabis impaired driving or other sorts of infractions is not new.”

But Hyshka and the police chiefs place importance on a common, primary goal: discouraging those who don’t use cannabis from starting.

“I think that’s a main objective,” she said. “[And] if you are going to engage in cannabis use, how can you do so responsibly in a way that is going to try to, as much as possible, protect your health.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/cannabis-marketing-advertising-legalization-1.4415063

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regs

OTTAWA — Health Canada offered hints Tuesday about the government’s plans for legal pot, including, plain packaging and stern, stark health warnings like those found on tobacco products.

The department released a set of proposed regulations that, among other things, would limit colours and graphics on cannabis packs and establish a system to trace pot through the distribution system.

It said the warnings should highlight risks, including the dangers associated with cannabis use during pregnancy, drug-impaired driving and what can happen when alcohol is mixed with marijuana.

The department’s so-called consultation paper is now open to public feedback for the next two months.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government is studying other proposals including a tracking system to monitor the cannabis supply chain and help prevent pot being diverted into and out of the legal market.

Health Canada also said Tuesday the proposals seek to elaborate on elements including what can be displayed on a package and what can’t, including anything that might entice youngsters.

“Text and graphics used in brand elements could not be appealing to youth and would be subject to the packaging and labelling restrictions in the proposed Cannabis Act,” the department said.

“Health Canada is also considering establishing standards (such as limiting use of colour and size) of these brand elements.”

Government officials said late Tuesday the proposals attempt to elaborate on what can be displayed on a package to ensure the legal industry can keep itself distinct from the black market, while competing with it.

Producers would be allowed to display brand elements, the officials confirmed, saying they are talking to legal producers about packaging.

The officials also said Health Canada sees its plans as consistent with what the federally appointed task force on pot legalization recommended: plain and standard packaging.

The proposed regulations would also require that cannabis workers get valid security clearances issued by the minister of health. Individuals with connections to organized crime, or criminal records or shady associates could be denied clearances.

Earlier Tuesday, Statistics Canada said it plans to start measuring the economic and social impacts of recreational pot — even before it becomes legal.

The agency said it wants to gradually develop the capabilities to capture and report information on non-medical cannabis.

It says collecting data both before and after marijuana becomes legal will allow Canadians, governments and businesses to form a clearer picture of the economic and social consequences of lawful pot.

The Liberals also faced criticism from the opposition Tuesday for limiting debate on their cannabis legislation, which is currently before the House of Commons.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould defended the move, saying the government has long been up front with the House and with Canadians about the plan to legalize pot by July 2018.

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regs

Many People Don’t Seem To Know That Taking Prescription Drugs Could Impair Their Driving

More than 45 million Americans will travel by car over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA predicts, and a new study suggests that about one out of five of those behind the wheel will have taken a prescription drug that could impair their driving.

On top of that, many of them aren’t aware of the risk.

The study authors used data from the most recent National Roadside Survey (NRS), conducted in 2013-2014 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to determine what proportion of drivers had been warned that the medication their doctor prescribed could impair their performance. Data were collected from randomly selected drivers at 60 different U.S. locations.

Shutterstock

Drivers 16 and older were eligible to participate in the voluntary, anonymous survey about alcohol and drug use. Those who agreed to be surveyed were also asked to provide a breath sample to measure alcohol content and a saliva sample for drug testing.

The 2013-2014 NRS was the second to ask drivers about drug use but the first to ask whether the drug had been prescribed for them and, if so, whether they’d been warned that it could impair their driving. Those who reported taking a prescribed, potentially impairing medication within the previous two days were then asked if they had been warned that it could affect their driving.

These are the categories of potentially impairing prescription drugs covered by the survey and some examples of them:

  • Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin).
  • Methadone and buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone), opioids that are used in medication-assisted treatment of substance use disorders.
  • Morphine or codeine, which are prescription opioids for pain.
  • Other prescription opioids (OxyContin and Vicodin), also used to treat pain.
  • Barbiturates (phenobarbital).
  • Benzodiazepines, which are tranquilizers (Xanax and Valium).
  • Muscle relaxants (Soma and Flexeril).
  • Sleep aids (Ambien and Lunesta).
  • ADHD medications (Ritalin, Aderall and Concerta).
  • Other amphetamines (Benzadrine and Dexedrine).
  • Prescription diet pills (Tenuate and phentermine).

Except for the last three types of drugs, the medications on this list could impair drivers by sedating them. Experimental studies have shown that certain tranquilizers have a substantially higher risk of impairment than alcohol and that opioids have a risk comparable to that of alcohol, the researchers write.

On the other hand, ADHD medications and other amphetamines as well as prescription diet pills are stimulants, which can influence attention, aggressiveness and risk-taking, the study authors write. You likely won’t fall asleep behind the wheel if you take a stimulant, but you could end up taking unnecessary risks while driving.

A total of 7,405 drivers answered the prescription drug questions on the NRS, and 19.7% of them reported taking a potentially impairing prescription drug within the previous two days. Of those who had, four out of five of them, or 78.2%, to be exact, said the drug had been prescribed for them, so there had been an opportunity for a physician or a pharmacist to talk about the risk of impaired driving.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ritarubin/2017/11/21/many-people-dont-seem-to-know-that-taking-prescription-drugs-could-impair-their-driving/#26429d5e35c4

Man arrested, alleged to have had over 1 lb. of marijuana, DUID

A Fort Collins, Colorado man is facing charges of felony Possession of a Controlled Substance- Marijuana in Natrona County, after Troopers say they found over a pound of marijuana in his vehicle.According to court paperwork 33-year-old Ira Whitney was taken into custody, during the late night hours of November 16th.

Highway Patrol Troopers say that Whitney was observed driving a black Pontiac G6, on I-25, near milepost 184. Reports say that the Pontiac was observed going 90 mph, in a posted 80 mph zone.

Troopers say that they further observed the Pontiac fail to maintain it’s lane of travel while driving.

A stop was initiated and an arrest affidavit says that when the Pontiac pulled over it struck the curb, and the driver stopped the car with the vehicle’s front passenger tire parked on the curb.

Troopers contacted Whitney and note that they could smell an odor of marijuana and alcohol about the suspect’s person. Troopers also report seeing a black canister labeled “THC,” and a multi-colored glass pipe with suspected marijuana in the bowl. The affidavit says that both the canister and the pipe were in plain view on the passenger seat.

When questioned, Troopers say that Whitney admitted to having a gram of marijuana in the vehicle, and saying that his last drink had been a rum and cola, at a bar in Fort Collins, two hours before the stop. Whitney further advised that he worked at the bar.

Whitney was taken into custody, and a subsequent search of the vehicle yielded an open Bud Light bottle that was described as “cool to the touch,” found in between the passenger seat and center console. Further, Troopers report finding a six pack of Bud Light in the car, with two of the bottles removed.

In the trunk of the vehicle Troopers discovered approximately 1.2 pounds of suspected marijuana, divided up between four separately packaged vacuum sealed bags.

After a field sobriety test, Whitney was placed under arrest just after midnight.

During his initial appearance in Natrona County Circuit Court, Whitney was charged with Felony Possession of Marijuana and Driving While Under the Influence. Whitney’s bond was set at $10,000 cash or surety.

All of those cited or arrested are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Charges are subject to change following official filings from the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office.

https://oilcitywyo.com/