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carboxy-THC

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 11, 2019

    Members of the New York City Council approved a pair of municipal bills this week limiting situations where those seeking employment or on probation may be drug tested for the past use of cannabis.

    Council members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a municipal proposal (No.1445) barring employers from drug testing certain job applicants for the presence of marijuana.

    The proposal states, “[I]t shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, labor organization, employment agency, or agent thereof to require a prospective employee to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in such prospective employee’s system as a condition of employment.” Council members passed the bill by a vote of 40 to 4.

    Under the plan, employees seeking certain safety sensitive positions – such as police officers or commercial drivers – or those positions regulated by federal drug testing guidelines, would be exempt from the municipal law.

    The measure now awaits final approval from City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. The new rules would take effect one-year after being signed into law.

    Studies have identified the presence of the inert carboxy-THC metabolite in the urine of former marijuana consumers for periods of several months following their last exposure.

    Council members also advanced separate legislation (No. 1427) to the Mayor’s office limiting situations in which persons on probation may be drug tested. Once signed, the new rules will take immediate effect.

    A resolution (Res. 641) calling on the New York City officials to expunge the records of all city misdemeanor marijuana convictions is pending. New York City police made over 78,000 marijuana possession arrests between the years 2014 and 2017.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 15, 2015

    Members of the Colorado Supreme Court have unanimously affirmed lower courts’ rulings that employers possess the authority to fire employees for their off-the-job use of marijuana. The Court found that the plant’s legal status under state law does not make the act of consuming cannabis “lawful” under the state’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute.

    The Justices opined, “The supreme court holds that under the plain language of section 24-34-402.5, C.R.S. (2014), Colorado’s ‘lawful activities statute,’ the term ‘lawful’ refers only to those activities that are lawful under both state and federal law. Therefore, employees who engage in an activity such as medical marijuana use that is permitted by state law but unlawful under federal law are not protected by the statute.”

    The ruling upholds the decision by Dish Network in 2010 to fire employee Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who used cannabis to treat muscle spasticity. Coats failed a random urine screen. Such tests identify the presence of the inert metabolite (byproduct) carboxy-THC, which may be present in urine for weeks or even months after one has ceased using the substance. Consequently, the Justice Department acknowledges, “A positive test result, even when confirmed, only indicates that a particular substance is present in the test subject’s body tissue. It does not indicate abuse or addiction; recency, frequency, or amount of use; or impairment.”

    The Colorado decision mirrors those of courts in California, Oregon, and Washington — each of which similarly determined that state laws exempting marijuana consumers from criminal liability do not extend to civil protections in the workplace.

    According to a study published last year in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, employees who test positive for carboxy-THC do not possess an elevated risk of workplace accident compared to employees who test negative.

    Full text of the decision, Coats v. Dish Network, is here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 23, 2014

    The Arizona Supreme Court this week rejected a 1990 state law that classified the presence of inert THC metabolites in blood or urine as a per se traffic safety violation.

    Carboxy-THC, the primary metabolite (breakdown product) of THC is not psychoactive. Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges, “It is … currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”

    Nonetheless, under Arizona law, the mere presence of carboxy THC — absent any evidence of behavioral impairment — was considered to be a criminal violation of the state’s traffic safety laws. (Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah impose similar statutes.) On Wednesday, the Court struck down the provision.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”

    He added: “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”

    The Court concluded: “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in § 28-1381(A)(3) is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment. Accordingly, … drivers cannot be convicted of the (A)(3) offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

    The Court did not address provisions in the state’s per se DUI law outlawing the operation of a motor vehicle with any presence of THC in one’s blood even though, according to NHTSA, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 13, 2013

    Nearly two-thirds of Americans disagree with workplace policies that allow employers to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job consumption of cannabis, according to a just released HuffPost/YouGov poll.

    Sixty-four percent of the poll’s respondents, including 62 percent of self-identified Republicans, said that it is “unacceptable for a company to fire an employee for using marijuana during his or her free time” if the employee resides in a state that has legalized the plant’s adult use. An equal percentage of respondents similarly said that it would be unacceptable for an employer to fire an employee for after-hours drinking.

    Only 22 percent of respondents said that it is acceptable for employers to fire workers who consume cannabis legally after-hours.

    To date, the Supreme Court of three separate states — California, Oregon, and Washington — have all similarly ruled that an employee who uses cannabis legally while off the job can still be sanctioned by their employer.

    Forty-five percent of respondents in the HuffPost/YouGov poll agreed that it should always be unacceptable for an employer to sanction an employee for his or her off-the-job marijuana use, even if the use took place in a state that classifies cannabis as illegal.

    Conventional workplace drug tests detect the presence of inert drug metabolites, non-psychoactive by-products that linger in the body’s urine well after a substance’s mood-altering effects have subsided.

    The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults and possesses a margin of error is +/- 4.8 percent.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 11, 2013

    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation, House Bill 1441, into law that criminalizes drivers from operating a motor vehicle if they have any detectable amount of THC and/or its inactive metabolites in their blood, saliva, or urine. Under such internal possession statutes, known as zero tolerance per se laws, a motorist who tests positive for the presence of such compounds is guilty per se (in fact) of a criminal traffic safety violation, regardless of whether or not there exist supporting evidence that the defendant was behaviorally impaired by such compounds.

    Residual, low levels of THC may remain present in the blood of occasional consumers for several hours after past use and for several days in habitual consumers — long after any behavior-inducing effects of the substance have worn off. The inert carboxy-THC metabolite, a commonly screened for byproduct of THC, possesses a longer half-life in blood and also may be present in the urine of daily cannabis consumers for several weeks, or even months, after past use.

    Oklahoma will become the 11th state to impose such a strict liability per se standard once the law takes effect on October 1, 2013. It is the third state this year to amend its traffic safety laws to include either per se thresholds or presumptive limits for cannabinoids.

    Ten additional states – Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin – already impose zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites.

    Five states impose non-zero-tolerant per se thresholds for cannabinoids in blood: Montana (5ng/ml — the new law, HB 168, signed in April, takes effect on October 1, 2013), Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml).

    Last month, Colorado lawmakers also approved legislation, effective as of July 1, 2013, stating that the presence of THC/blood levels above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.”

    However, according to the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA): “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

    In addition, a 2013 academic review of per se drugged driving laws and their impact on road safety found “no evidence that per se drugged driving laws reduce traffic fatalities.”

    NORML argues that it is inadvisable to infer behavioral impairment based on the presence of cannabinoid levels alone — a position that we outline here, here, and in public testimony here.

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