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drugged driving

  • by NORML September 3, 2015

    Canary App

    The mainstream media is abuzz about My Canary — the first-ever NORML-endorsed mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not he/she may be under the influence of marijuana.

    National and international media outlets have profiled the app in recent weeks, including Fast Company, CNN Money, The International Business Times, The Daily Mail, GQ Magazine (French edition), Philly.com, The Denver Channel and Business Insider, among others.

    My Canary features four distinct mental and physical performance tests, designed to evaluate baseline performance, and then to compare subjects’ behavior against this established baseline. Potential deviation in baseline performance as a result of the use of cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, or even exhaustion, is readily identified by the app. Here is a video of Oregonian reporter Molly Harbarger engaging in a live demonstration of the My Canary application.

    Since its launch in mid-July, over 10,000 people have downloaded the application. As we approach Labor Day weekend, the makers of My Canary are offering the app for download for the discounted price of 99 cents. This promotion will be in effect from Thursday, September 3 through Monday, September 7.

    Canary is compatible with iOS 7.1 and iPhone versions 4S and newer.

    For more information visit: http://www.mycanaryapp.com.

    For more information regarding cannabis and psychomotor performance, please see: http://norml.org/library/driving-and-marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 26, 2012

    Marijuana law reform legislation is pending in nearly 30 states this 2012 legislative session. Is your state among them? Find out here.

    More importantly, have you taken the time to call or write your state elected officials this year and urged them to support these pending reforms? If not, NORML has provided you with all of the tools to do so via our capwiz ‘Take Action Center’ here. (FYI: NORML’s capwiz page is specific to legislation only, not ballot initiative efforts. A summary pending 2012 ballot initiative campaigns may be found at NORML’s Legalize It 2012 page on Facebook here or on the NORML blog here.)

    Below is this week’s edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Round Up — where we spotlight specific examples of pending marijuana law reform legislation from around the country.

    ** A note to first time readers: NORML can not introduce legislation in your state. Nor can any other non-profit advocacy organization. Only your state representatives, or in some cases an individual constituent (by way of their representative; this is known as introducing legislation ‘by request’) can do so. NORML can — and does — work closely with like-minded politicians and citizens to reform marijuana laws, and lobbies on behalf of these efforts. But ultimately the most effective way — and the only way — to successfully achieve statewide marijuana law reform is for local stakeholders and citizens to become involved in the political process and to make the changes they want to see. Get active; get NORML!

    California: Democrat Assemblywoman Norma Torres is sponsoring legislation, AB 2552, that seeks to criminalize anyone who operates a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of marijuana or its metabolites in their system, regardless of whether their psychomotor performance is demonstrably impaired. NORML is opposing this measure, which has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. More information about this legislation is available from California NORML or via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Connecticut: Legislation that seeks to allow for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients is moving forward in the Connecticut state legislature. On Wednesday, March 21, members of the Judiciary Committee voted 35 to 8 in favor of the measure, Raised Bill 5389. NORML thanks all of you who contacted your elected officials ahead of this important vote.

    The Committee vote follows on the heels of the release of a statewide Quinnipiac University Poll of over 1,600 residents which reported that 68 percent of voters endorse the measure. According to the poll, “there is no gender, partisan, income, age or education group opposed” to legalizing marijuana as a physician-recommended therapy.

    To receive future e-mail updates on the progress of this legislation and what you can do to assure its passage, please contact Erik Williams, Connecticut NORML Executive Director, here.

    New Hampshire: Members of the Senate Committee on Health voted 5-0 last week in favor of Senate Bill 409, which allows for the limited legalization of medical marijuana by qualified patients, on March 23rd. SB 409 now awaits a vote on the Senate floor, which may come as soon as this week. [UPDATE!] On Wednesday, March 27th, members of the Republican-led New Hampshire State Senate voted 13-11 in favor of Senate Bill 409. You can watch lawmakers reaction to the vote here. As amended, qualified patients would be able to possess up to four cannabis plants and/or six ounces of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. SB 409 now awaits action from the House of Representatives, House Health and Human Services Committee. To become involved in the statewide campaign effort in favor of SB 409, contact NH Compassion here or visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    Rhode Island: Legislation seeking to reduce marijuana possession penalties has been reintroduced in both chambers of the Rhode Island legislature. House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation Senate Bill 2253 amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. A recent statewide poll, conducted in January by the Public Policy Polling Firm, shows that 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents approve of this change.

    On Tuesday, March 27, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony in favor of the measure. Last week, members of the House Judiciary Committee held similar hearings. NORML submitted written testimony in favor of the measure to the Committee.

    Separate legislation to regulate the adult sale and use of marijuana is also pending in both chambers, and will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

    Additional information about these measures is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

    [UPDATE] Tennessee: The House version of legislation, the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act”, that seeks to allow for the use of medical marijuana passed out of Committee on Tuesday, March 27. The bill now goes to the full House Health and Human Resources Committee, which will hear the measure on Wednesday, April 4, at 1:30pm. In past years, similar legislation has gained significant legislative support. NORML had previously retained a state lobbyist to work on behalf of the medicinal cannabis issue in the state legislature, and many Tennessee lawmakers have expressed support authorizing patients’ access to marijuana therapy. Now lawmakers need to hear from you. You can contact your lawmakers about this legislation via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator November 30, 2010

    The little red police cars show you the zero-tolerance states. If there is a time next to it, like 24h, that's the mandatory jail time you serve immediately.

    Today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a press release entitled “Drug Use Among Fatally Injured Drivers Increased Over the Last Five Years“.  The release summarizes the full report that examines the the drug test results of drivers who had been killed in automobile crashes.  While the report itself is objective and offers many caveats about reading it as an indictment of drug-using drivers as serious safety risk, the mainstream media hasn’t been as “fair and balanced” and the Drug Czar has jumped on the release to forward his agenda.

    The headline from the Associated Press reads: “Gov’t: Drugs were in 1 in 5 drivers killed in 2009“.  The lede for the story is:

    About 1 in 5 drivers who were killed last year in car crashes tested positive for drugs, raising concerns about the impact of drugs on auto safety, the government reported Tuesday.

    Other outlets like USA Today give it a more chilling headline: “U.S.: Third of tests on motorists killed shows drug use“.  The discrepancy results from the AP considering all drivers who were killed when not every driver killed was drug tested.  The USA Today considers the “tests on motorists killed”, thereby discounting the 37% of killed drivers who were never drug tested.  Whatever – 20% of all drivers or 33% of all drivers tested – they’re dead, they drove, there’s drugs, be afraid!

    The AP then follows with a second paragraph that points out the obvious logical fallacy of “correlation = causation” – just because dead drivers had drugs in their system doesn’t mean drugs caused the accident that killed them – something the USA Today article never addresses:

    Researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the new data underscored a growing problem of people driving with drugs in their systems. But they cautioned that it was not clear that drugs caused the crashes and more research was needed to determine how certain drugs can hinder a person’s ability to drive safely.

    However, while AP doesn’t get around to distinguishing what exactly “drugs” refers to until paragraph seven, USA Today opens by explaining we’re talking about all drugs, prescription and recreational:

    One-third of all the drug tests done on drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents came back positive for drugs ranging from hallucinogens to prescription pain killers last year — a 5 percentage point increase since 2005, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported Tuesday.

    Nobody recommends driving while impaired by drugs – legal or illegal.  NORML has maintained this as a core Principle of Responsible Use for years.  But there are many legal prescription drugs that will cause impairment that bear the warning “Until you know how you may be affected by this drug, do not drive or operate heavy machinery,” which suggests to me that once you do know how it affects you, it’s your judgment call.  In fact, one of those drugs is prescription dronabinol, the synthetic cannabinoid THC marketed as “Marinol”.

    AP’s seventh paragraph also points out that presence of a drug in your system may have no bearing on whether that drug was impairing you in the first place:

    The tests took into account both legal and illegal drugs, including heroin, methadone, morphine, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, LSD, prescription drugs and inhalants. The amount of time the drug could linger in the body varied by drug type, the researchers said, so it was unclear when the drivers had used the drugs prior to the fatal crashes.

    Cannabis metabolites can be detectable in urine for weeks and THC itself can be detected blood for at least six hours.  Most illegal drugs can be detected for a few days in urine and a few hours in blood.  Prescription drugs are just as varied.  So we’ve got 20% or 33% of killed drivers who had a drug in their system that may or may not have contributed to the crash that killed them and they may or may not have taken that drug before driving.

    For comparison’s sake, USA Today links to the stat that drowsiness was a factor in 17% of all fatal crashes.  You just may be more likely to die in a crash caused by lack of a nap as by taking the pill to get a good night’s sleep.  Are you scared yet?  Well, you should be, because the whole point of scaring you about the drugged drivers is the push for nationwide zero-tolerance DUID laws.  Back to the USA Today:

    Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, called the numbers of fatalities involving drugs “alarmingly high,” and called for more states to pass laws making it a crime to have illegal drugs in the body while driving, no matter how much. Seventeen states already have such laws.

    The lack of research also presents a problem for lawmakers to develop laws. They can outlaw the use of all illegal drugs while driving, but what about someone who took a prescription sleeping pill a few hours ago?

    Since they can outlaw the illegal drugs and there is no political cost in doing so, they will.  These “zero tolerance” laws means if they detect any metabolite of any illegal drug, you are guilty of driving impaired.  Since that joint you smoked could be detectable long after its effects had worn off, you’d be an impaired driver in the eyes of the law even if you were completely sober and unimpaired.  Since marijuana is detectable for much longer periods than most any other drug, legal or illegal, “zero tolerance” laws amount to witch hunts for cannabis consumers behind the wheel.

    The irony here is that compared to the threat from drinking drivers, drowsy drivers, texting drivers, and prescription drugged drivers, the threat from drivers using cannabis is negligible.  Just last week we took a look at a study in the Netherlands that showed that experienced users can develop a tolerance to the psychomotor impairing effects of cannabis.  This summer we examined a study performed in Iowa and Connecticut that showed cannabis-using drivers performed as well on a driving simulator after smoking marijuana as they did before smoking marijuana.  (If you’d like the full examination of marijuana and driving, please see Paul Armentano’s impeccable white paper, Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review.)

    As for the prescription drugs, there isn’t much political benefit in threatening a majority of your constituents, especially the older ones who do most of the voting, with a DUI charge for the pills the doctor required them to take every day.  Also consider the lobbying money and clout of Big Pharma that won’t look kindly on strict new driving laws that might cause people to use less pills.

    No, the per se limit on prescription drugs isn’t coming to your state anytime soon… but maybe the end of driving privileges for cannabis consumers in your state is.  The seventeen states with current per se DUID laws are:

    • Arizona (except for medical marijuana patients), Utah, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware, and Georgia already have these zero tolerance laws for any THC or metabolites of THC – if you toked within the past week, you could already be an impaired driver.
    • Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island have zero tolerance for THC in the blood – if you toked before bed you might be an impaired driver in the morning.
    • Nevada and Ohio consider you impaired if they detect 2 nanograms (2 billionths of a gram) of THC per milliliter of blood (2ng/ml) and Pennsylvania raises that limit to 5ng/ml.
    • Virginia, Minnesota, and North Carolina have zero tolerance laws for drugs that do not include cannabis or its metabolites.

    Learn what the DUID laws are in your state.

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator August 9, 2010

    Our California NORML Coordinator, Dale Gieringer, has penned an informative viewpoint for the Sacramento Bee, addressing the one of the only two arguments against legalization of marijuana that still have any traction with the people: “Marijuana Mayhem on the Freeways!” (the other being: “My God! What About the Children!?!”)

    As usual, the prohibitionists’ stark warnings about the peril of stoned drivers after legalization only makes sense if you believe nobody is smoking pot now.

    Studies on marijuana and driving safety are remarkably consistent, though greatly under-publicized because they fail to support the government’s anti-pot line. Eleven different studies of more than 50,000 fatal accidents have found that drivers with marijuana-only in their system are on average no more likely to cause accidents than those with low, legal levels of alcohol below the threshold for DUI.

    The major exception is when marijuana is combined with alcohol, which tends to be highly dangerous.

    Several studies have failed to detect any increased accident risk from marijuana at all. The reason for pot’s relative safety appears to be that it tends to make users drive more slowly, while alcohol makes them speed up.

    Thus legalization could actually reduce accidents if more drivers used marijuana instead of alcohol, but it could also increase them if there were more combined use of the two.

    Nobody is saying “toke up and get behind the wheel”; our Principles of Responsible Use firmly states “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis”. However, it would be naive to think every cannabis consumer uses responsibly.

    Geiringer addresses this by pointing out that California, the state with the easiest access to medical marijuana, has only the 14th-highest rating of states with marijuana-related accidents, while states like Indiana and South Carolina, some of the most hostile states with respect to marijuana, have far more marijuana-related accidents.  Within California, two of the most liberal cities for pot access, San Francisco and Santa Cruz, had zero marijuana-related accidents in the past year of record.

    US accident rates in general have been declining steadily since the 1960s, even as marijuana use reached its greatest rates in the late 1970s.  Even in the 1980s when marijuana legalization was at its lowest levels of support and throughout the 1990s and 2000s as medical marijuana spread from state to state, the highway accident rates have continued their steady decline.  It seems that whether marijuana is popular and legal or not, it makes no difference in roadway safety.

    Besides, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in California now and Prop 19 does nothing to undo that.  Californians can and have been arrested for drugged driving over the past fourteen years, even with legal medical marijuana.  Whatever cops are doing now to arrest pot-smoking drivers for DUID will still be done after Prop 19 passes.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 28, 2010

    Below is the video from my most recent appearance (yesterday) on the Fox News.com broadcast Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano.

    Judge Napolitano has long been one of the mainstream media’s most vocal and consistent critics against the so-called ‘war on drugs.’ In recent broadcasts, he has profiled how U.S. marijuana prohibition is fueling violence and murder in Mexico, and has called for the arrest and prosecution of several police officers involved in a violent SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri.

    In this segment, Judge Napolitano questions the White House’s recent call to expand so-called ‘drugged driving’ laws to punish non-impaired, former cannabis consumers (and he is no doubt the first national commentator to do so), and asks whether the war on marijuana consumers is less about pot, and more about expanding budgets and job opportunities for law enforcement. (Answer: Absolutely!)

    You can watch our full conversation below.

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