Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalization

Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalizationBy Contributing Writer – October 27, 2017198 0Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter In addition to the economic and health impacts of marijuana legalization (previous articles at uccseconomicforum.com/publications_media.shtml or at csbj.com), another important dimension to consider are the safety impacts. This would include traffic-related fatalities and other serious traffic incidents, seizures (or confiscation) of illegal or over-the-limit marijuana product, diversion of Colorado marijuana to other states where it is illegal, property and violent crime rates, and homelessness. Although not an exhaustive list of safety-related metrics, these are good indicators of how our broader community is being affected by the legalization of recreational marijuana. This article will cover traffic-related metrics and the final article will discuss other safety-related metrics.Much like the other dimensions related to tracking the effects of legalization, it is important to note that safety data is somewhat compromised by two factors. One, there is typically at least a one- to two-year lag in the availability of safety-related data, and recreational marijuana only became legal and available for retail sale in 2014. Two, given that recreational marijuana was previously illegal, our state did not have a robust methodology for systematically collecting information on marijuana-related crime nor methods for testing drivers for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Nonetheless, some meaningful information is beginning to emerge.To begin, measuring drivers for THC is challenging because its effects peak very soon after consumption, then begin to fall rather quickly, although lower levels of THC stay in the system for quite a while. By the time a crash has happened and a person gets tested, THC levels may be dramatically lower than when the crash occurred. Likewise, a low level of THC can remain in someone’s system many hours after consumption, complicating a true measure of impairment levels. Further clouding the issue is that marijuana-impaired drivers are often also drinking alcohol. Testing for driving under the influence of alcohol is easier and more mainstream, so many officers do not go beyond a positive DUI reading even if they suspect marijuana use. It is noteworthy that 36 percent of all drivers in Colorado involved in a fatal car crash who did test positive for THC had also consumed alcohol (CDOT). As discussed in an earlier article, the cross sensitization of alcohol and marijuana makes the effects of both together greater than the sum of each individually.The graph below shows the increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in the past 10 years in Colorado (up 279 percent). In terms of the proportion of total traffic-related fatalities, in 2009, marijuana impairment was involved in 9 percent of fatalities; by 2016, 21 percent of fatalities involved marijuana impairment. This data may seriously under represent the attribution of marijuana impairment in traffic deaths, however, because only 44 percent of cadavers from traffic deaths have toxicology testing for marijuana. It is noteworthy that also in the last 10 years, population has increased 17 percent, and all traffic deaths increased 16 percent. If we examine DUIDs (driving under the influence of drugs), but not fatalities, the number of positive toxicology screens for marijuana rose 63 percent in the pre-legalization period (2009-2012) compared to the post-legalization period (2013-2016). Out of 1,004 DUIDs in 2016, 76 percent involved marijuana and another substance, and 38 percent involved marijuana only.A 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Report estimated that the total economic costs for a vehicular fatality were $1.4 million including property damage, medical costs, insurance costs, lost productivity and other factors. The economic costs of the 125 traffic fatalities involving marijuana in Colorado in 2016 would have been approximately $175 million. The estimated cost of a DUID in the same 2010 NHTSA report was $10,270. If we conservatively use that dated amount and apply it to the number of known DUIDs in 2016, the cost in Colorado was approximately $7.9 million. If we juxtapose these two traffic-related costs to collected marijuana taxes, the costs outweigh the benefits by several million dollars (see table).These rough estimations do not consider the fatalities or other incidents that are marijuana related but not captured via toxicology testing. Nor does this one estimate encapsulate the other various costs associated with safety or health-related impacts. What this data does show us is the importance of comprehensively examining both the revenue and cost implications of legalization. Although we are now almost four full years into recreational legalization, and it is not likely that the legal status will change, we can use the information to

Source: Safety-related impacts of recreational marijuana legalization

Parish president says he was not impaired

Larry Cochran mug
St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran, via Kenner Police Department

St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran claims he was not impaired when he was pulled over by police while driving in Kenner last month and that he has prescriptions for the drugs found in his system afterward, his attorney said Thursday.

The lawyer, Wiley Beevers, said that Cochran likely appeared unsteady during a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest because of a childhood surgery in which he had a benign tumor removed from his right ear. The surgery has affected his balance to this day, said Beevers, who provided a doctor’s note explaining the surgery.

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For weeks, Cochran has been under pressure from other parish officials to explain his arrest. He was pulled over the morning of Sept. 2, and while he had no detectable alcohol in his system he tested positive for a combination of prescription pain killers.

Beevers said Cochran is prepared to prove that he has valid prescriptions for both oxycodone and hydrocodone, drugs commonly sold as Oxycontin and Vicodin, although he did not provide the documentation Thursday. 

A third drug found in Cochran’s system, oxymorphone, is a byproduct of the oxycodone and not a separate drug, Beevers said.

He said Cochran has undergone a half-dozen recent medical procedures — including multiple surgeries — for problems with his hands, shoulder, back and urinary tract.

Cochran, nonetheless, had not taken either medication for several days before he was pulled over, Beevers said.

“Larry doesn’t deny he was operating the vehicle, but he denies he was operating it in a reckless manner,” Beevers said. “He was not impaired. Anybody who has a script can take medication as prescribed.”

Kenner police have said Cochran was pulled over about 12:30 a.m. after a witness called to report a Chevy Tahoe with a public license plate was “swerving all over the roadway” and even driving into the neutral ground on Joe Yenni Boulevard in north Kenner.

An officer pulled the vehicle over on Cabernet Drive, near the home of Cochran’s secretary. Police said Cochran performed poorly on a field sobriety test and that he displayed bloodshot, glossy eyes and slow speech.

According to police, Cochran also made strange comments, asking if there was anything officers could do for him and saying, “I guess this means I should fill out my resignation papers.”

Cochran showed a blood-alcohol content of .00 on what is commonly referred to as the Breathalyzer test; the legal limit is .08 percent. But police said he bit off the mouthpiece on the testing machine when he first tried to take it.

Suspecting he was impaired by drugs, they drew his blood and booked him on counts of driving under the influence and reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

Cochran was released from jail shortly after his arrest because of overcrowding. Police publicly released the blood test results last week.

Beevers on Thursday hinted at other aspects of the defense he may present for Cochran if the case goes to trial.

He also said Cochran’s car was stopped on the side of the street when police initiated the traffic stop because the parish president was worried he was being followed.

“Police never saw him driving in a reckless manner,” Beevers said. “For a traffic stop, police must observe you breaking the law.”

At least one Parish Council member previously said he wanted Cochran to make a statement about the drugs found by the blood test.

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Wiley Beevers portrait
Wiley Beevers (courtesy of Wiley Beevers)

“I don’t know if it was just a one-time incident,” Councilman Paul Hogan said. “I don’t know if it is a recurring situation with him.”

But fellow Councilman Terrell Wilson said Cochran deserves the benefit of the doubt. “People ask me if he’s showing up at work,” Wilson said. “He’s at work, doing his job.”

Cochran was elected parish president in November 2015, succeeding V.J. St. Pierre. He had previously served as the Parish Council chairman.

A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 1st Jefferson Parish Court in Metairie. Prosecutors had not filed charges against him as of Thursday.

Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentence

Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentenceBy Melinda Miller | Published October 26, 2017 | Updated October 26, 2017SHARE TWEET His second arrest for driving while high cost Maxamillion Hernandez dearly on Thursday when he was sentenced to 1 3/4 to four years in prison on his conviction for vehicular assault.On May 10, 2016, Hernandez, 22, drove his speeding car through a red light in the Town of Tonawanda when he was in a chase with another vehicle. His car T-boned a taxicab on River Road, seriously injuring a passenger and also harming the driver.He also told investigators he had smoked pot earlier in the day.While Hernandez was free and awaiting resolution of the felony charges against him in that case, he was arrested on Aug. 16, 2016, while driving on Route 400 in West Seneca, and charged with driving while impaired.“So,” Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio said to Hernandez on Thursday, “you have one case pending where people were seriously injured, and three months later you are arrested for the same thing again. “You drive when you are high a lot,” she said bluntly.Assistant District Attorney Christopher McCarthy said neither victim wanted to come to court to give a statement, but that they trusted the court to deliver a fair sentence. He also reminded the judge that one of the victims suffered a severe head injury and fractures to his leg and ribs, preventing him from working for some time.For the defense, attorney Sean Hill made a lengthy appeal for the judge to consider the “brief period of incarceration” recommended in a pre-sentencing report for Hernandez, possibly ordered him to spend weekends in jail so he could continue attending Erie Community College.He pointed out that video of the injury crash showed that Hernandez braked when he saw the other car, that he stayed at the scene and that he and his passenger tried to help the people in the taxicab.But Hernandez’s continued use of drugs, even after both arrests and counseling, was too much for the judge.“You’re just a clear danger and a threat to others on the road,” she said, before pronouncing the maximum sentence allowed for vehicular assault in the second degree, a Class E felony. A one-year sentence for his conviction for the second arrest will run concurrently.

Source: Driver who’s called a ‘clear danger’ gets maximum prison sentence – The Buffalo News

Driver revived for third time within a month with Narcan

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VINELAND – For a third time within a month, a city man was revived by Narcan after he was found unconscious behind the wheel.

Richard Flores Jr., 28, of the 500 block of South Eighth Street, was arrested around 5:30 p.m. Friday after police received a call about a unconscious male driver behind the wheel of a vehicle at Myrtle Street and Michigan Avenue.

A witness told officers that the driver might be overdosing, noting there was a hypodermic needle stuck in Flores’ arm.

Flores regained consciousness after Vineland EMS administered Narcan. He was taken to Inspira Medical Center Vineland for further medical evaluation.

According to police reports, Flores was involved in motor vehicle crashes on Sept. 22 and Oct. 8 where he also overdosed at the scene and needles and heroin were found in his possession.

Narcan has been administered numerous times to Flores to revive him, however, “he is a repeat offender and is driving unlicensed and revoked,” police said.

Flores was charged with driving under the influence of narcotics and issued summonses for reckless driving, controlled dangerous substance in a motor vehicle, being an unlicensed driver, driving while on the revoked list, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other related drug offenses.

The case is pending in Cumberland County Superior Court and Vineland Municipal Court.

Man arrested after almost striking a highway worker with his car

SHADY COVE — The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Trail man Tuesday afternoon on several charges after a motor vehicle crash on Highway 62 near Old Ferry in Shady Cove.Richard Stephan Mori, 64, of the 9000 block of Elk Creek Road, was arrested on charges of driving under influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, endangering a highway worker and harassment.Deputies responded to a call of a motor vehicle crash at 3:32 p.m. after Mori’s vehicle, a white 1998 Ford F-150 pickup, rear-ended a logging truck and a passenger vehicle that were at a stop due to the work zone. The highway, an undergoing enhancement project by Oregon Department of Transportation, only had one lane open with flaggers direct traffic while construction crews working in the other lane.According to the press release, Mori got out of his car and became “confrontational” by pushing one of the other drivers. He also threatened to shoot one to them. According to the press release, no weapon was seen.As he drove away, Mori nearly struck a flagger in the highway work zone, the press release shows. He was then located by a deputy on Rogue River Drive at Orchard Lane. He was taken into jail after a traffic stop.At the jail, deputies also issued citations for refusing a breath test, careless driving and driving with an open container of alcohol.Jackson County Sheriff said in the press release Mori was not charged with a “hit and run” because there was no visible damage to the involved vehicles.

Source: Man arrested after almost striking a highway worker with his car