MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the impaired driving convictions of a woman who was found slumped over in her car on three occasions after allegedly inhaling from a can of dust remover.
The chemical in the can — 1,1-Difluoroethane, or DFE — was found in the woman’s system, and she was convicted of three counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a hazardous substance. But the Supreme Court overturned her convictions because DFE is not listed as a hazardous substance under Minnesota’s driving-while-impaired statute.
“We acknowledge that based on our holding today, a driver dangerously intoxicated by DFE is not criminally liable under the plain language of the current DWI statutes,” Justice Natalie Hudson wrote for the majority. She said it’s up to the Legislature to refine the law.
DFE is found in refrigerated-based propellant cans, commonly sold under the brand name Dust-Off, that are used to clean computer keyboards and electronics. Each time the woman, Chantel Lynn Carson, was found in her car — slumped over, passed out, slurring and with bloodshot eyes — she had one or more of those cans with her.
In arguing that her convictions should be upheld, the state said that while Minnesota’s occupational safety and health rule on hazardous substances does not specifically list DFE, the rule also says it “does not include all hazardous substances and will not always be current.”
The rule also includes a list of “characteristics” that would make a substance hazardous. The state argued that DFE has many of those characteristics and falls into that category.
But the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the statute plainly says that the types of hazardous substances that can lead to a driving-while-impaired conviction are limited to those specifically listed.
Justice Anne McKeig dissented, saying DFE has the characteristics of a hazardous substance even though it’s not mentioned by name.
“Under the court’s interpretation of the statute, Minnesotans may inhale Dust-Off and then drive at their pleasure while endangering their fellow citizens,” she wrote. “This impunity cannot be what the Legislature intended.”
Carson’s attorney, Lydia Villalva Lijo, said in a statement that the decision was great news for her client.
“She continues to work hard every day to contribute in positive ways to her community and to keep her life on track,” she said. “It has been a hard road and we should encourage her progress.”
Pardon the pun, but the marijuana industry has been growing like a weed for years — and it has rapidly changing perceptions about the drug among the public to thank for it.
According to a CBS News poll conducted in July 1979, just 27% of those surveyed believed marijuana should be legal. Comparatively, 69% thought it shouldn’t be legal. Fast-forward to April 2017, and CBS News’ latest survey finds that an all-time record of 61% believe pot should be legal nationally, while just 33% now oppose the idea. This growing acceptance and favorability of marijuana has some pro-legalization enthusiasts and investors thinking that lawmakers on Capitol Hill may be coerced to change the drug’s scheduling sooner rather than later.
The result of this shift in opinion on pot has dramatically boosted sales of the drug in the United States. A Marijuana Business Daily report released this year estimates that legal-cannabis sales could grow by around 30% in 2018, and by an aggregate of 300% between 2016 and 2021 to approximately $17 billion. It’s this shifting opinion and rapid growth rate that have marijuana stock investors so excited about the industry’s prospects.
Marijuana’s huge speed bump in the road
But there’s one catch, and it’s a pretty big one: Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. As a Schedule I substance, it has no recognized medical benefits and is considered to be on par with heroin and LSD.
During the Obama administration, the Cole memo, named for President Obama’s deputy attorney general, James Cole, acted as a guide for how the federal government and legalizing states would coexist. According to the memo, states would be allowed to legalize and expand cannabis programs as long as they held to strict regulations, including ensuring that no minors got their hands on cannabis, and that states set strict regulations for driving under the influence. It also meant states had to take extra precautions to ensure that marijuana wasn’t trafficked interstate.
During the Obama presidency, federal regulators were generally hands-off when it came to the practices of individual states. Under the Trump administration, that may soon change.
In February, now-former White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would take a more hands-on approach to regulating pot relative to the previous administration, though he failed to elaborate exactly what that might entail.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, leaves nothing to hide when it comes to his feelings about marijuana.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions strikes fear in the marijuana industry
For example, in May, Sessions sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to repeal the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which protects marijuana businesses in legal states from federal prosecution. In other words, Sessions has been looking for the OK from his peers from the get-go to go after medical-marijuana businesses. This action would build on previous commentshe’s made suggesting crime follows drug use, and that cannabis is anything but medicine.Sessions recently doubled down on his anti-marijuana view by candidly responding to a reporter’s question during a press conference in San Diego following a record-breaking narcotics seizure. According to Reuters, Sessions reminded everyone in the room that the federal law banning the sale of marijuana “remains in effect,” and that “I’ve never felt that we should legalize marijuana.” These 11 words are everything you need to know about the head of the Justice Department in regard to how he feels about weed.
The silver lining for pot businesses and marijuana stocks to this point has been the adherence to the Cole memo, as well as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which hasn’t allowed federal funding to be used to prosecute cannabis companies. But the tide may be shifting, which could give Sessions the ammo he needs to shut down legal-weed operations.
For instance, the House Rules Committee last month blocked a vote on the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which would provide the exact same exemptions for pot businesses in legal states as in previous years. This is an amendment that has to be voted on and added to the budget each and every year. The blockage of this vote by the House may keep the amendment out of the 2018 budget, paving the way for Sessions to wreak havoc by using federal dollars to prosecute medical-cannabis businesses.
Marijuana isn’t a priority for Congress
Even if marijuana stocks and pro-legalization enthusiasts manage to catch a break by having the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment included thanks to its passage in the Senate, there’s still not a whole lot to cheer about. When push comes to shove, marijuana remains a very low priority for lawmakers in Washington, despite the shifting sentiment among the public.
Over the past couple of months, lawmakers have been devoting nearly their entire dockets to healthcare reform and tax reform. On top of these potentially major legislative changes, there’s the federal budget, the debt-ceiling debate, and Trump’s desire for an infrastructure bill. There’s next to no incentive, or time, for lawmakers in Washington to focus on legalizing cannabis.
Even if there were time, this Congress seems highly unlikely to pass any favorable weed laws. Aside from Jeff Sessions’ being dead set against seeing marijuana expand any further, Republicans remain in control of both houses of Congress. According to a Gallup October 2016 poll, Republicans are just one of two groups still opposed to the expansion of weed, along with senior citizens.
With the deck still stacked against marijuana stocks, and expected to remain that way for years to come, investors should do their best to temper their expectations.
Say Goodbye to the Old iPhone: This Could Be 40X Better
iPhone mania is back, and there’s potentially billions up for grabs. But if you think Apple is the best way to play the pending iPhone tsunami, think again. One tiny company holds the patents to an invaluable, tiny component inside Apple’s newest iPhone — and Apple has to pay up every time it puts this technology in its phones.
Don’t wait until the name of this company is on everyone’s lips.
The state’s highest court on Tuesday limited which evidence can be used to prosecute drivers suspected of operating under the influence of marijuana, handing a victory to civil rights advocates in a closely watched case.
Under a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts police officers can no longer cite their subjective on-scene observations or sobriety tests to conclude in court testimony that a driver was under the influence of marijuana.In limiting the use of the familiar roadside tests designed to provide an approximate measure of drunkenness — walking in a straight line, standing on one foot, and so on — the court found there is no scientific consensus those tests definitively prove someone is intoxicated by marijuana.
The judges also noted the effects of marijuana on its users are more complex than of alcohol and less obviously correlated to the amount consumed, making it difficult for untrained observers to know whether someone is high.
“Because the effects of marijuana may vary greatly from one individual to another, and those effects are as yet not commonly known,” the court said, “neither a police officer nor a lay witness who has not been qualified as an expert may offer an opinion as to whether a driver was under the influence of marijuana.”
Police officers can still arrest drivers they suspect are high and describe in court how the drivers behaved during the roadside tests. For example, an officer could tell a jury a driver was unable to walk in a straight line. But under the ruling, the officer could not describe the task as a “test” or say the driver “failed” it.
Similarly, an officer could tell a jury that a driver smelled strongly of marijuana and seemed confused but could not use such observations to conclude the driver was high
The defendant in the case is Thomas Gerhardt, who was stopped in Millbury in February 2013 by a State Police trooper for allegedly driving with his lights off, according to a statement of facts agreed to by both sides in the case.
The trooper testified that he saw smoke inside the vehicle and smelled marijuana and that Gerhardt acknowledged smoking about a gram of marijuana. Gerhardt was unable to properly do the “walk-and-turn” test, the trooper said, and struggled to stand on one foot.
The case has not yet gone to trial, amid legal wrangling over which evidence can be admitted.
Rebecca Jacobstein, Gerhardt’s attorney, called the ruling a victory over “junk science.”
“The big take-away here is that for the government to introduce something as science, it actually has to be science,” Jacobstein said.
The decision, she argued, does not make it harder for law enforcement to deter stoned driving.
“I look at this more as a protection of people’s right to have only meaningful and relevant evidence used against them,” she said.
A spokesman for Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., whose office is prosecuting Gerhardt, said the decision “provides much-needed clarity regarding police testimony,” and prosecutors will use the court’s guidance in bringing the case to trial.
Walpole police Chief John Carmichael Jr., a spokesman for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, doesn’t expect the ruling to significantly change how officers conduct traffic stops.
“At the end of the day, officers are still going to rely on all their observations and the total circumstances of the stop, and base their arrests on probable cause,” Carmichael said. “We don’t think about conviction rates all the time; we think about public safety.”
Beyond standard sobriety tests, Carmichael said, officers carefully watch how a driver acts in general. He added he was relieved those observations will be still heard in court.
“We’re assessing demeanor, attitude, attention span, behavior — everything,” he said.
Carmichael called on the state Legislature to follow Colorado and Washington, two other states where recreational marijuana is legal, in establishing a blood concentration limit for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
“Our law doesn’t have the teeth it needs,” he said.
Both states use a threshold of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood; in Washington any driver at or above that level is automatically considered impaired, while in Colorado those drivers can dispute their condition in court. However, some experts have questioned the validity of any law that specifies a particular blood concentration for impairment.
Jay Winsten, director of Harvard University’s Center for Health Communication and a pioneer of OUI awareness campaigns, praised the court for taking a “middle ground” approach.
“I think it was a wise, smart, and careful decision,” Winsten said. “It keeps field sobriety tests in the picture without allowing police officers to claim they constitute unequivocal evidence of marijuana intoxication, which would be suggesting something that goes beyond what’s currently known.”
“In the end,” he added, “it’s up to the common sense of jurors.”
In Colorado, it’s legal to smell like marijuana while driving and to have paraphernalia in the car. It’s even legal to have marijuana in the car as long as the weed’s in a sealed container away from the driver.
But it’s illegal to drive impaired from cannabis, just like it’s illegal to drive drunk. And the number of deaths due to car crashes involving marijuana is rising, says Sam Cole, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“It’s still small compared to all the other reasons we’re seeing for fatalities out there,” he says. In 2016, 51 people died in crashes that involved drivers whose blood tested contained a certain level of active THC. That’s 8 percent of all crash fatalities in 2016. “The data indicates it’s a growing problem.” And CDOT has allocated almost a million dollars, all from marijuana tax revenue, to educate the public about the danger of driving while high.
And yet, confirming that someone has actually been driving while impaired by marijuana is remarkably tricky. But that doesn’t stop Colorado lawyer Chris Halsor from teaching law enforcement officers to recognize the signs of marijuana impairment.
“It’s a brave new world,” he says to a room full of Colorado State Patrol officers. There are now more dispensaries in the state than there are Starbucks coffee shops, he tells the students as they learn how to correctly perform roadside sobriety tests.
To complicate matters, as CDOT’s Sam Cole notes, “the only roadside device that’s allowed to be used, by statute, is an alcohol device.” It’s largely up to officers to determine on the side of the road if a person is impaired from pot.
As part of the training, Halsor assigned the officers to go shopping at local dispensaries, so they could get a sense of what pot products are out there. Then, a group of volunteers arrived, introduced themselves to the officers, and promptly proceeded to an RV parked in the hotel parking lot where, as payment for their participation, they could legally consume as much pot as they wanted from a plastic tub of edibles, vape pens, joints and other pot products.
When the volunteers returned to the hotel, the officers tested them on a number of measures meant to distinguish the impaired from the sober.
How many quarters are in $1.75? A person who’s impaired might take a while to figure it out.
Walk nine paces, touching toe to heel, along a line, then return. Someone who’s impaired might forget the instructions or have trouble balancing.
Follow a pen with your eyes as an officer moves it around your face. An impaired person’s eyes often show something called “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” in which the eyes jerk when they move to the side. When the pen moves toward the nose, an impaired person’s eyes often show “lack of convergence” — their eyes can’t cross in sync, drifting or shifting around rather than converging on the tip of the nose.
The usefulness of many of these tests are backed up by scientific evidence, but the methods don’t always apply to everyone equally. And they are all subject to — even dependent upon — an officer’s observations, biases, and interpretation.
Indeed, one of the volunteer’s results were clear-cut. “She’d be going to jail,” said Rich Armstrong, an officer with Colorado State Patrol, and the others all agreed. But the other three were not.
Officers disagreed about the second woman, who did well on some parts of the tests and poorly on others. “It was a tough one,” said Trooper Tom Davis, also with CSP.
“Yeah, this is one of those subjective areas,” said Rich Armstrong.
The officers determined that, in real life, they would not have arrested the two male volunteers for impairment, even though the male volunteers had consumed a comparable amount of cannabis to the female volunteers.
Enter the scientists. At the Boulder branch of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nestled among buildings that house atomic clocks and giant lasers, there is a group of researchers dedicated to forensic science. And right now, a few them are all about pot. Measuring it precisely, of course.
Chemical engineer Tara Lovestead is working hard to lay the groundwork for a pot breathalyzer. As federal employees, she and her colleagues can’t actually develop commercial breath tests, but they’re doing the nitty gritty basic research like measuring the fundamental physical properties of THC. The findings could help companies and researchers create reliable devices that correlate chemicals in a person’s breath to their level of impairment.
From Lovestead’s point of view, the current system for determining marijuana impairment relies too much on an officer’s interpretation. “It’s too subjective. I’m not comfortable with that. The public, I don’t think, is comfortable with that,” she says.
At least two companies are working on devices, including Cannabix Technologies and Hound Labs, but they’re still in the testing phase. And though officers in California are already using a marijuana detection device called the Drager DrugTest 5000, it does not detect a person’s level of impairment — only the presence of THC in their saliva.
Often, when officers deem an erratic or dangerous driver to be impaired from marijuana, they bring the driver in for a blood test. According to state law, if a milliliter of the person’s blood contains more than 5 nanograms of active THC, the person can be “presumed” to be impaired. But researchers have shown that the 5-nanogram limit can be misleading, possibly incriminating someone who last smoked days before driving, and possibly missing someone who just consumed cannabis.
“It’s a very challenging problem and a lot of work needs to be done,” says Lovestead, whose research group previously worked on technology that could sample tiny amounts of chemicals in the air to detect things like explosives or buried bodies.
While scientists and companies chip away at developing marijuana breath tests, Sam Cole at CDOT is exploring another big question: what’s behind Colorado’s rise in crash fatalities involving marijuana.
“The 64 million dollar question is: Is it because of legalization?” he says. Data on crash fatalities and marijuana is spotty before 2013. So the answer, Cole says, is unclear.
Nick Nolte has been taking the date rape drug GHB for “four years”.
The 76-year-old actor – who starred in ’48 Hours’ alongside Eddie Murphy – was arrested in 2002 for driving under the influence of alcohol and the drug, but he’s now admitted to being a regular user of the narcotic.
The actor said: “I’ve been taking GHB for four years and I’ve never been raped.
Despite checking into rehab, the actor continued drinking on and off until he stopped for good.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, he explained: “Now I can have drink and stop, but I used to fill the gaps between adrenaline rushes with booze and drugs.”
While starring in acclaimed director Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’, the actor was unable to remember a line for the first 10 days.
Recalling the surreal experience, Nick said: “I started so high that I couldn’t remember a line for the first 10 days.
“And Ang came up and said ‘do you think it’s time we string two words together?’ And I said ‘just about’.”
Nick – who has a 31-year-old son called Brawley with his third wife Rebecca Linger and a nine-year-old daughter by his current wife Clytie Lane – also confessed being famous can make people feel lonely.
He shared: “Fame is a parenthesis you live in and when you die they close those parentheses.
“Then you get a real definition of who you were. It’s living under the spotlight. Your mistakes are going to be seen and then they’ll be glorified in not a positive way.
“It’s a lonelier kind of life than I think anonymity is. It also teaches you how much privacy is valued and how much it is really what the citizens of the world would prefer to have rather than constantly being scrutinised by cameras and questions.”
MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Two people are recovering after a vehicle slammed into a rehab center in Merritt Island.The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. at the Island Health and Rehabilitation Center on Alma Avenue. Florida Highway Patrol says the driver passed out while driving, crashed through a fence, drove through a grassy area, and then crashed into the rehab center.The vehicle crashed through the back of the building into a room where someone was sleeping. In the pictures above you can see the vehicle is fully inside the rehab center.Officials tell FOX 35 there were approximately 120 patients inside the building at the time of the crash.Brevard County Fire Rescue transported two patients, the driver and person sleeping, with only minor injuries.Troopers suspected that the driver was impaired by drugs. A blood sample was taken and charges are pending until those results are confirmed, according to FHP.The crash remains under investigation.
FRAMINGHAM – A New York man was originally only supposed to sleep in his friend’s Cadillac.But, authorities said Emanuel Ramsey, 23, took the car for a joyride on Thursday, driving around for more than an hour on the rim after shredding the tire before police finally arrested him on Beacon Street at 8:30 a.m.Police learned of the Cadillac at 6:45 a.m., when a caller reported a car driving erratically on Concord Street near Rte. 9, police spokeswoman Lt. Patricia Grigas said.The Cadillac was gone by the time police arrived.About a half hour later, an officer on a detail saw the Cadillac driving toward him on Franklin Street near Mount Wayte Avenue.“The officer tried to stop him, but (the driver) kept going,” Grigas said.Around 8:15 a.m., officers found the car in a parking lot on Beacon Street and spoke to Ramsey.“Officers realized he was impaired, significantly impaired,” said Grigas. “He admitted to smoking marijuana.”Police contacted the owner of the car. She said she was friends with Ramsey. Ramsey asked her for a place to stay and she let him sleep in her car while she worked at a gas station, Grigas said. Ramsey did not have permission to drive the car.Police arrested Ramsey, of 570 Fox St., The Bronx, and charged him with driving under the influence of drugs, using a vehicle without authority, driving to endanger, failing to stop for police and driving with a suspended license.Ramsey is scheduled to be arraigned in Framingham District Court on Friday.
A man who struck a telephone pole in the area of Route 15 and Wilson Drive on Friday was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of a narcotic and other possession-related offenses, police reports said.At approximately 7:15 p.m., Sparta Police responded to a report of a minivan striking a utility pole.The driver, Tomas Molina, 31, of Bloomfield, stated that he fell asleep at the wheel.Police officers at the scene, Cpl. Frank Schomp and Cpl. Josepgh Antonello, noted that Molina’s pupil’s were constricted, an indication of narcotic use.When questioned, Molina admitted that he had snorted a bag of heroin while driving.Further investigation led to Molina’s arrest for driving under the influence of a narcotic and having narcotics and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle. Molina was transported to Sparta Police headquarters for processing.Sgt. Joseph Sanfillipo, a certified drug recognition expert of the Ogdensburg Police Department, responded to Sparta Police headquarters to conduct testing relating to narcotics affecting Molina’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. After testing concluded, Molina was charged with possession of heroin, possession of marijuana, possession of drug-related paraphernalia, being under the influence of a narcotic, driving while intoxicated, restless driving, careless driving, failure to maintain lane and the possession of a controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle.Molina was advised of a mandatory court appearance and was released to a responsible adult.
A Rome man has been jailed after being stopped by Rome police around 10 p.m. Saturday night.According to Floyd County Jail reports:Remy Mervyn Johnson, 26, of 24 Woodcreek Way was arrested by Rome police Saturday night at the intersection of U.S. 411 and Turner McCall Boulevard.Johnson was charged with felony possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, suspected OxyContin and a series of misdemeanors for having undisclosed pills not in an original container, two counts of seat belt violation regarding restraints for children, failing to maintain his lane, driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving, and three counts of endangering a child by DUI. Three young children were in the car.
A committee convened by the Maine Department of Public Safety says it doesn’t believe that Maine needs to set a limit for determining whether a motorist is impaired by marijuana. The recommendation is likely to stir debate among law enforcement officials and legislators as implementation of the voter-approved recreational marijuana law plods forward.Committee chair Scot Maddox said the state need not alter its operating under the influence law or create new blood-level limits for THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Instead, he said lawmakers should provide additional funding to train police officers, prosecutors and even judges to recognize marijuana impairment and its dangers while driving. He said there should also be a robust public education campaign.Sen. Mark Dion, a Portland Democrat and former police officer, said he’s surprised by the recommendation, as blood level tests for alcohol play a key role in OUI arrests and convictions.“If you blow a 1.5 on the breath test, it kind of validates the officer’s conclusions that you’re impaired, and there’s a lot of weight placed on that breath test. If someone is arrested for cannabis influence impairment, all we have is the confirmation that cannabis is present. And it doesn’t necessarily validate the observations of the officer,” he said.But Maddox, speaking before the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee, said Maine’s current impairment law is sufficient — at least for now.“The basis of under the influence is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned. Whether you’re impaired because you’re drinking alcohol or whether you’re impaired because you’re taking prescription medications, or you’re impaired because you’re smoking marijuana, the difference is none, as far as the law is concerned,” Maddox said.He said that officers trained to identify marijuana impairment can still make an arrest and use a blood test to bolster their case for a conviction.Last year a bill that would have set a THC limit failed in the Legislature because there was disagreement over what would be an appropriate limit to determine impairment.The issue has dogged the more than two dozen states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes — or in Maine’s case, both. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly 20 states have set limits on THC in the bloodstream while operating a vehicle.A number of studies have found that marijuana degrades a person’s ability to drive, but research on whether it causes accidents has been mixed. The same goes for studies determining the appropriate level of THC to determine driving impairment, in part because THC has been found to affect people differently.