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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 25, 2017

    Marijuana and the LawStandard roadside field sobriety tests (FST) are not reliable indicators of marijuana-induced impairment, according to a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

    Justices determined that there is a lack of scientific consensus as to the validity of FSTs for determining whether a subject is under the influence of cannabis. They opined: “There is ongoing disagreement among scientists, however, as to whether the FSTs are indicative of marijuana impairment. In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to determine whether a person’s performance on the FST is a reliable indicator of impairment by marijuana. These studies have produced mixed results. … We are not persuaded … that the FSTs can be treated as scientific tests establishing impairment as a result of marijuana consumption.”

    As a result, justices ruled that police may only provide limited testimony with regard to a defendant’s FST performance. An officer “may not suggest … on direct examination that an individual’s performance on an FST established that the individual was under the influence of marijuana,” the court determined. “Likewise, an officer may not testify that a defendant ‘passed’ or ‘failed’ any FST, as this language improperly implies that the FST is a definitive test of marijuana use or impairment.”

    The court further ruled that a police officer may not testify “without being qualified as an expert [as] to the effects of marijuana consumption [or] offer an opinion that a defendant was intoxicated by marijuana [because] no such general knowledge exists as to the physical or mental effects of marijuana consumption, which vary greatly amongst individuals.”

    Attorneys Steven Epstein and Marvin Cable filed an amicus curiae brief in the case on behalf of national NORML.

    The case is Commonwealth v. Gerhardt.

  • 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 NORML July 15, 2015

    Canary App Permits Marijuana Consumers To Gauge Their Personal Performance

    For over 45 years NORML has been at the center of national efforts to legalize responsible use of marijuana by adults. But missing from these efforts was an accurate way to measure impairment. Today we’re happy to announce such a way exists and it’s called Canary.

    “Canary is the first app to give consumers the scientific information they need to honestly and accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere,” says Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML.

    Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and sophisticated analysis to accurately measure impairment due to alcohol, medication, fatigue and even the subtle impact of marijuana.

    Download and Canary yourself: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i

    As a special offer for NORML members, the first 500 downloads of Canary are free. Afterwards the app will be available for $4.99 and a percentage of each sale will go to support responsible consumption initiatives at NORML.

    Please try Canary and send us your feedback.

    Sincerely,

    The NORML Team

    P.S. For more information about responsible marijuana use visit:

    http://norml.org/about/intro/item/principles-of-responsible-cannabis-use-3

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Allen St. Pierre: allen@norml.org, (202) 483-5500

    Organization: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

    Web Site: www.norml.org

    Email: media@norml.org

    iTunes App Store: https://appsto.re/us/QYxB7.i

    Additional Contact: Marc Silverman: mycanaryapp@gmail.com

    Canary App Permits Marijuana Consumers To Gauge Their Personal Performance

    WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2015. Representatives of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) today endorsed Canary, the first-ever mobile app that quickly and accurately measures one’s personal performance to determine whether or not a subject may be under the influence of marijuana. Available for iPhone® and iPad®, Canary combines decades of research and experience, specialized mental and physical performance tests, and advanced modeling and analysis to accurately measure behavioral or cognitive impairment. Interested parties may view a full demonstration of the Canary app:

    “NORML’s purpose is to influence public opinion to legalize the responsible use of marijuana,” said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML. “Canary is the first app to provide consumers with the scientific information they need to accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere.”

    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.

    To form this overall picture, Canary uses state-of-the-art metrics and advanced features of the iPhone 4s and later, to measure and record:

    • Memory
    • Balance
    • Reaction Time and Divided Attention
    • Time Perception

    The Canary tests can be completed in two minutes and the results are immediately analyzed to determine the individual user’s performance level. Average performance data from a large group of unintoxicated individuals is used to assess impairment. For greater accuracy, users can set a unique personal baseline; then future tests are measured against this personal baseline.

    “Canary is the culmination of 60 years of combined technical and legal experience and thousands of peer-reviewed studies, including NASA, NHTSA, and DOD research, as well as upon thousands of studies specific to cannabis’ acute impact on cognitive and psychomotor functioning,” said Marc Silverman, Canary’s developer. “Canary measures key performance indicators that may be impacted by potentially impairing substances, including marijuana, while respecting users’ privacy. Canary doesn’t share users personal data with anyone.”

    “The identification of THC in blood is poorly associated with users’ impairment of performance,” said Leonard Frieling, a published author on the impact of marijuana on functioning and an a ttorney of 39 years. He is also a member of the NORML Legal Committee , Colorado NORML, and (while speaking for himself only) the first Chair of the Colorado Bar Association Marijuana Law Committee. “Canary is the first app to use performance science to help marijuana users consume more responsibly, ” he said. He added: “Of great importance is that Canary is not limited to marijuana’s impact, alcohol’s impact, or any specific cause of behavioral impairment. What we all need to know, on the spot, is ‘are we functioning up to our personal ‘normal’ standards?'”

    According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans are concerned about how the implementation of statewide marijuana legalization laws may impact traffic safety.

    Such concerns pose a potential impediment to the enactment of additional marijuana law reforms. The Canary app seeks to respond to these concerns in a way that utilizes the best available science to assure personal responsibility and safety.

    For more information visit: www.mycanaryapp.com

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

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

    ###

    NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by responsible adults. NORML’s Principle of Responsible Use state, “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis.” To read NORML’s full Principles, visit: http://norml.org/principles/item/principles-of-responsible-cannabis-use-3.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director October 28, 2011

    This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: politicians in California speak out against the federal crackdown and a new study looks at impairment levels in casual and heavy cannabis consumers.

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv each Thursday afternoon to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 17, 2010

    One of the indirect though no less serious consequences of marijuana prohibition is the mischaracterization of clinical research in order to support the federal government’s bankrupt policy.

    For example, last week the Obama administration called for the expansion of states to enact laws criminalizing motorists who drive with the residual presence of drug or inactive drug metabolites in their body. In the case of marijuana, these policies are especially egregious because its metabolites may remain present in urine for weeks or months after past use. Further, studies have consistently reported that the presence of marijuana metabolites is not associated with psychomotor impairment or an elevated risk of motor accident — a result that should be self-evident given that cannabis metabolites only form in urine after the drug’s primary psychoactive compound, THC, has been broken down and converted by the body over a period of several hours.

    So how does the federal government justify its call for implementing such an inane and discriminatory policy? Simple. By claiming that supposed ‘marijuana and driving menace’ is so prevalent and severe that lawmakers have no other choice but to enact such inflexible and nonsensical policies to halt it.

    Now I’ve written on the subject of cannabis use and psychomotor performance numerous times, including recently authoring the white paper Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review. In short the science says this: there appears to be a positive association between very recent cannabis exposure and a gradually increased risk of vehicle accident; however, this elevated risk is below the risk presented by drivers who have consumed even small (read ‘legal’) quantities of alcohol.

    Does this conclusion support the blanket criminalization of marijuana or the enactment of the sort of zero-tolerant per se driving laws outlined above? No more so than such a conclusion advocates for a return to alcohol prohibition.

    So what’s the administration to do? That’s easy — just fund more research. And what to do when that federally funded research fails to produce the results they were looking for? That’s even easier: just claim that they do anyway.

    Such is the case with a just-published study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs assessing the psychomotor skills of subjects on a battery of off-road driving simulator tests both before and after smoking marijuana (and/or placebo).

    During the course study, subjects were asked to respond to various simulated events associated with automobile crash risk — such as avoiding a driver who was entering an intersection illegally, deciding to stop or go through changing traffic lights, responding to the presence of emergency vehicles, avoiding colliding a dog who entered into traffic, and maintaining safe driving during a secondary (in-the-car) auditory distraction. Subjects performed these tests sober, and then shortly (30 minutes) after smoking a single marijuana cigarettes (or placebo).

    So how did the subjects perform? Much to the apparent chagrin of the investigators, just fine.

    “No sex differences or interactions of sex and marijuana were observed for any of the driving tasks. Participants receiving active marijuana decreased their speed more so than those receiving the placebo cigarette during a distracted section of the drive. An overall effect of marijuana was seen for the mean speed during the distracted driving (PASAT section). [N]o other changes in driving performance were found.

    In short, subjects had no greater likelihood of responding adversely to any of the simulated events after smoking marijuana than they had prior to consuming cannabis.

    Of course, these are not the sort of results that NIDA — who provided funding for the study — or the Drug Czar’s office are looking for. Therefore, the authors are required find some outcome — any outcome — supporting the administration’s claim that driving under the influence of cannabis is a serious and significant threat. How do they do that in this case? Simple; by stating subjects lack of impairment was, in fact, implicit evidence of their impairment!

    “Persons smoking the placebo cigarette showed an improvement in performance of the PASAT during the driving task, likely attributable to practice effects. Under the influence of marijuana, however, no differences were found between PASAT performance during practice testing and while driving. Participants who smoked active marijuana decreased their speed during this section of the drive, suggesting additional compensatory skills were used.”

    In other words, the authors are claiming that because subjects on one specific test (the auditory distraction test) drove more slowly when completing the task after smoking marijuana than they did prior to consuming cannabis, but otherwise manifested no difference in the outcome of said test — or on any other test for that matter — that this is somehow strong evidence that marijuana has a significant and adverse impact on driving.

    SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

    Under the influence of active marijuana, participants exhibited increased drowsiness, although this did not appear to affect their driving [emphasis mine]. Participants under the influence of marijuana failed to benefit from prior experience on a distracter task [what the authors want the reader to emphasize] as evidenced by a decrease in speed and a failure to show expected practice effects. This study supports the existing literature that marijuana does affect simulated driving performance [ditto], particularly on complex tasks such as divided attention. It is anticipated that many teenagers and young adults driving under the influence of marijuana are doing so while conversing with friends in the car, listening to music, talking on the cell phone and/or text messaging others. These behaviors divide the driver’s attention and are particularly dangerous under the influence of marijuana [what the authors really, really want the reader to emphasize].”

    And that, my friends, is just the latest example of how marijuana prohibition corrupts, and how absolute marijuana prohibition corrupts absolutely.