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.
When it comes to driving under the influence, the rules for Alcohol-related DUI’s and marijuana DUI’s are far more stringent for drivers with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) than drivers using a standard license.The legal blood alcohol limit established for drivers over 21 is 0.08. With a CDL, that legal limit is slashed in half to 0.04. The stricter guidelines are the result of several variables including the massive size/weight of most commercial vehicles as well as the presence of hazardous materials.The marijuana DUI laws are also less lenient. Any CDL driver found with even the smallest trace of THC in his/her system are looking at an automatic DUI charge.Find out more about CDL DUI law by watching the video above. Be sure to check out my older blog posts for informative videos about marijuana DUI law, and Busting the Legal Limit Myth.
Scientists Still Seek A Reliable DUI Test For MarijuanaListen· 5:245:24QueueDownloadEmbedTranscriptFacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailJuly 30, 20177:14 AM ETHeard on All Things ConsideredRAE ELLEN BICHELLAlthough consuming cannabis is legal in Colorado and several other states, driving while under the influence of the drug is not.Nick Pedersen/Getty ImagesThis spring, 16 state patrol officers from Colorado and Wyoming took a couple days off their usual work schedule to do something special. They assembled in a hotel conference room in Denver. As instructed, they wore street clothes for their first assignment: going shopping at nearby marijuana dispensaries.”It’s a brave new world,” said instructor Chris Halsor, referring to the years since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.There are now more marijuana dispensaries in Colorado than there are Starbucks shops, said Halsor, a Denver lawyer and former prosecutor. And though consuming cannabis is legal across the state, driving under its influence is not.The cops in that conference room, with their buzz cuts and Mountain Dew, are all part of the force charged with keeping the roads safe. But first, they needed a formal pot education — to learn how to identify various marijuana products and paraphernalia when they pull over a driver they suspect is under the influence.Here’s the rub: Despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, cops still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test — a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain. Though a blood test exists that can detect some of marijuana’s components, there is no widely accepted, standardized amount in the breath or blood that gives police or courts or anyone else a good sense of who is impaired.Yessenia Hinojos, a budtender at a Denver cannabis dispensary called The Green Solution, describes marijuana strains to A.J. Tarantino (left) and Philip Gurley. Both men are officers with Colorado State Patrol.Rae Ellen Bichell/NPRA number of scientists nationally are working hard to create just such a chemical test and standard — something to replace the behavioral indicators that cops have to base their judgments on now.”We like to know the human error and the limitations of the human opinion,” said Tara Lovestead, a chemical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., who is working on setting standards for what a marijuana detection test might require.It’s actually really hard for Lovestead to do this kind of research because she works in a federal lab; federally, cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 substance, “a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” So even though Lovestead is in Colorado, getting hold of a sample for research purposes is just as hard as getting hold of heroin.”We cannot use the stuff down the street,” she said.Aside from being a bureaucratic mess, coming up with a standardized blood or breath test is also a really tricky chemistry problem because of the properties of the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.In states like Colorado, there is a THC blood test that law enforcement can use to show “presumed” impairment. If a person has more than 5 nanograms of delta-9-THC per milliliter of blood, a court or jury can infer that they are impaired, according to Colorado law (this is called “permissible inference” in legalese).SHOTS – HEALTH NEWSHigh On The Highway: Scientists Try To Build A Marijuana Breath TestBut Lovestead and others maintain that, scientifically speaking, that cutoff doesn’t actually mean anything.”We just don’t know whether or not that means they’re still intoxicated, or impaired or not,” she said. “There’s no quantitative measure that could stand up in a court of law.”Turns out it can be a lot harder to chemically determine from a blood or breath test that someone is high than to determine from such a test that they’re drunk.Ethanol, the chemical in alcoholic drinks that dulls thinking and reflexes is small and dissolves in water. Because humans are mostly water, it gets distributed fairly quickly and easily throughout the body and is usually cleared within a matter of hours. But THC, the main chemical in cannabis that produces some of the same symptoms, dissolves in fat. That means the length of time it lingers in the body can differ from person to person even more than alcohol — influenced by things like gender, amount of body fat, frequency of use, and the method and type of cannabis product consumed.In one study, researchers had 30 frequent marijuana users stay at a research facility for a month without any access to drugs of any sort and repeatedly tested their blood for evidence of cannabis.”And it shocked everyone, including ourselves, that we could measure, in some of these individuals, THC in the blood for 30 days,” says Marilyn Huestis, a toxicologist with the University of Maryland S
Most people are fairly familiar with the effects that drinking alcohol can have on their driving performance. Alcohol loosens inhibitions, so people are apt to take more risks even as their reaction times are slowed, and they can become more easily distracted and unable to concentrate on driving. Alcohol can also impact a driver’s sense of direction and their ability to judge situations on the road and make good decisions.
Other types of drugs have similar, although not identical effects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system had declined by nearly one-third since 2007. But there wasn’t much cause for celebration; the survey also found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. Nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect their safety on the road, according to the NHTSA.
Here’s a look at how several other types of drugs can impact drivers’ performance.
Whether you call it pot, cannabis, Mary Jane or something else, marijuana can have a suprisingly profound impact on driving skills. This has become more of a concern since seven states and the District of Columbia of Columbia have now legalized the recreational use of pot, many other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of it and other states are allowing its use for medical reasons.
One of the problems in determining the effects of marijuana is that it can be smoked or eaten in food, which can affect the way that the body reacts to it. The amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) in products also varies. In addition, there are no good tests to determine how much THC is actively influencing a driver, since the chemical remains in the bloodstream for durations that are hard to predict through simple tests. For instance, the half life of the drug and its metabolites depends sensitively on things like your weight, your genetics, your metabolism, etc.
In general terms, however, it’s clear that marijuana can have a detrimental effect on driving. A study at the University of Iowa, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, looked at the impacts that inhaled marijuana had on driving. (Researchers used a driving simulator). As the levels of THC in their bloodstreams increased, the study participants showed increased weaving within a lane of traffic. (They did not, however, leave the lanes or speed while weaving as often as those participants who consumed alcohol did.) The researchers also found that those who consumed both alcohol and marijuana did worse than drivers who had consumed only one of the substances.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study, “Acute use [of marijuana] has been shown to moderately diminish virtually every driving‐related capacity, generally in a non‐linear dose‐response fashion: psychomotor functions, cognition, attention, vigilance, tracking, reaction time and coordination.” Marijuana use is “generally regarded to affect automated/routine driving more than that requiring conscious effort. Effects depend on dose, absorption, time since peak blood level, history of use, and skill/tasks.”
Like marijuana, cocaine can have physical effects on drivers that include heightened nervousness and greater alertness but poorer concentration. Unlike pot smokers, however, cocaine users are more likely to exhibit reckless driving behaviors and/or reduced driving ability, according to a 2008 article in the Traffic Injury Prevention Journal.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) website notes that the observed signs of cocaine impairment in driving performance have included subjects speeding, losing control of their vehicle, causing collisions, turning in front of other vehicles, high-risk behavior, inattentive driving, and poor impulse control. It further states that as the effects of cocaine wear off, subjects may suffer from fatigue, depression, sleepiness, and inattention, which can all impact driving.
Not all drugs have a negative impact on driving. Medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, such as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, can actually improve driving skills.
In 2007, the Journal of Safety Research published a scientific literature review that looked at the effect that medications for controlling ADHD could have on driving competence. The authors’ review demonstrated that there were “well-documented driving risks and impairments associated with ADHD” and that there were “positive effects of stimulant medications on driving performance.”
They concluded that “Clinicians should educate patients/caregivers about the increased risk of adverse outcomes among untreated individuals with ADHD and the role of medication in potentially improving driving performance.”
CHADD (the national resource on ADHD) agrees. It points out on its website that drivers with untreated ADHD (especially young drivers) are at greater risk for vehicle accidents and are more likely to receive traffic tickets for speeding, failure to obey traffic laws and reckless driving. “In a striking comparison, the untreated symptoms of ADHD in a teen driver can impair the driver’s ability so much that it resembles intoxicated driving.”
The website also states that “Research shows that teens who are treated for ADHD are better drivers than teens receiving no treatment. Teenagers who have never been treated with stimulant medication are involved in more vehicle crashes than those who had medication treatment for at least three years.”
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs used to treat disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression and insomnia. Common “benzos” include Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam).
Benzos can be very helpful in treating people with anxiety and most people can use them safely. But according to established research, users can suffer a battery of side effects that include drowsiness and a hangover-like-state that affects driving ability.
Many people worry about the effects that marijuana legalization will have on DUI. But the dangers of driving while under the influence of benzodiazepines may have been under reported. When the State of Alabama’s Department of Forensic Science conducted a review of traffic stops, they discovered that benzos were the second leading cause of impaired driving in the state. They found that Xanax was involved in 29 percent of DUI cases in the state, while marijuana was involved in only 23 percent of DUIs.
Drugs like Valium (diazepam), Halcyon (triazolam) and Librium (Chlordiazepoxide) are all examples of tranquilizers. They may have effects similar to alcohol on driving: they dull the senses and impair decision-making ability.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned about the dangers of driving while on tranquilizers. For example, the NHTSA notes that “diazepam is a moderate tranquilizer, causing sleepiness, drowsiness, confusion, and some loss of anterograde memory.” (Anterograde memory is the linked to the ability to remember new information.)
The NHTSA further warns that “At high doses, excitement, disinhibition, severe sedation, and effects on respiration occur, particularly if respiration is impaired by other drugs or by disease. Diazepam can produce a state of intoxication similar to that of alcohol, including slurred speech, disorientation, and drunken behavior.”
Oklahoma’s Emergency Medical Services Authority says that the use of tranquilizers can lead to a lack of coordination, altered perceptions and slower reaction time. Drivers on tranquilizers don’t track the road as well as sober drivers, struggle to maintain lane positon and frequently neglect roadside instruction.
The Michigan State Police Jackson post provided the following log of activities for the weekend of July 21 to July 23 with troopers investigating 70 incidents and calls for service.
Possession with Intent to Deliver / Operating While Impaired: Jackson County, Blackman Township: Troopers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle driving erratically. Upon contact the driver, a 25-year-old male from Eaton Rapids, was found operating while in possession of drugs, with intent to deliver, operating and maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory, and driving while under the influence of marijuana. The suspect was arrested and lodged at the Jackson County Jail.
Operating While Impaired: Jackson County, City of Jackson: Troopers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for a defective exhaust. Upon contact the driver, a 24-year-old male from Waldron, was found to be operating under the influence of alcohol. The suspect was arrested and lodged at the Hillsdale County Jail.
A car stopped in the Town of Wethersfield with no windshield, doors or a license plate and with an ax in the roof led to the arrest of the driver on charges of driving while impaired by drugs, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.After receiving a report about a “suspicious vehicle” on Monday, deputies pulled over a car with many missing parts driven by Jared T. Price, 21, of Java, at the intersection of Younger and Wethersfield roads, the sheriff’s office said.”Price performed poorly on field sobriety testing and was taken into custody,” according to a sheriff’s office news release.Price was taken to the sheriff’s office for a drug influence evaluation and a certified Drug Recognition Expert found him to be “impaired by multiple different drug categories,” officials said.ADVERTISEMENTJared T. Price (Provided by Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office)He was charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs and numerous traffic infractions, including operating a vehicle without insurance.Price was arraigned in the Town of Gainesville Court where bail was set in the amount of $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear Aug. 1 in the Town of Wethersfield Court.
A Trout Run woman driving this car admitted that she “used two bags of heroin” minutes before she crashed into a guardrail in the 7500 block of Route 15 in Lycoming Township about noon Thursday, according to Old Lycoming Township Police Chief Joseph Hope. The woman’s juvenile son, riding in the vehicle, escaped injury, Hope said. The woman was taken to a local hospital and later released. Her name will be released when charges are filed, Hope said. About 10 minutes before this crash, another woman suffered a suspected heroin overdose as she crashed her Honda Element into a parked van on Boyd Street, city police said. She too was taken to the hospital and released. Charges are pending against her as well, police said.
Troy police arrested a 25-year-old Royal Oak woman for operating a vehicle while under the influence of narcotics with her 10-month-old daughter in the back seat.Officers responded to the area of Livernois and Maple roads at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, July 23, on a report of a gray 2002 Mercury Sable being driven erratically.Officers saw the car enter the Citgo gas station at 1654 Livernois and spoke with the woman. Police say the woman was unsteady on her feet and had slurred speech. She had the prescription drugs Xanax and Norco in her purse.Officers asked her to perform several field sobriety tests and reported that she performed poorly.She was arrested and taken to the Troy lock-up facility where she agreed to submit to a blood test.She was charged with child endangerment and operating a vehicle while under the influence of narcotics, pending laboratory results.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of marijuana is challenging the state standard at which a person is considered to be under the influence.
Public defender Gregory Paskell says the THC blood level set by the state is arbitrary, and he’s asking that the charge against Kent Roderick Jensen be dismissed.
Jensen, 20, is charged in the March 2016 death of motorcyclist Jashua Fry, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/2uihlM3 ) reports. Court records say Jensen pulled out onto a road without seeing the motorcycle, causing the fatal crash.
Jensen’s blood contained 19 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, court records said. State law says a person is under the influence with a blood level of 5 ng/mL of THC.
Paskell cited studies that have concluded it’s difficult to standardize the amount of THC that creates impairment because it varies from person to person.
“There is no science to back up the 5 ng/mL level as a level that indicates impairment in a sizable enough portion of users to make it a standard for everyone,” Paskell wrote.
Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Victoria Callender said the Legislature, which makes policy decisions, set the legal limit based on research and that the case should move forward.
Montana is one of 18 states with marijuana-specific impaired driving laws, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. A dozen states have zero tolerance for marijuana or its metabolites.
Colorado, Montana and Washington’s driving limits of 5 ng/mL are the highest among the six states that list legal limits. Colorado allows defendants to argue they were not impaired at that level, but Montana and Washington laws are similar to blood-alcohol limits, which drivers cannot challenge.
District Judge Gregory Todd heard arguments on June 2 and then received written briefs. He has not ruled in the case. Jensen’s trial is scheduled for late August.