Monday, February 17, 2014

Pass the Joint

It was only a matter of time the war on drugs would take on a new tack and that is the issue of driving "under the influence."

Notice no mention about distracted driving as that would affect a much larger percent of the population (and probably the Professors they consulted with) and in turn have police pulling pretty much everyone over.   Right now distracted driving is the real nemesis:
  • In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 416,000 people injured in 2010.
  • In 2010, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.
But don't expect to hear that on the echo chamber at 6 pm. And why? Most people don't want to lose that privilege.

Of course the Police will have all gone to a special school to recognize the signs of a distracted driver.
"Young lady were you texting while driving?"
"No Sir"
"Well you look to me that when I passed you your eyes were averted downward and not on the road"
"Sir I was adjusting the radio."
 "So you weren't watching the road? 
"Then step away from the car and let me yank out the radio and take your cell phone too. Here is a ticket and we will take you to jail for 24 hours and that will teach you." 

And to get your car back you of course forfeit your phone  and in some counties, cities and states your car too if not temporarily, permanently.  And add to that we will have your hands interlocked to the steering wheel when driving to ensure you don't do any of that anymore.  And of course special car insurance and your license taken from you for a year.  And tons of fees and costs. And a special school that requires you to listen to the dangers of distracted drivers from counselors who have diagnosed you as a risk to others; now they never actually met you but that ticket and that cop did say you are a danger so good enough!   Then a victims group, DAT, Dads Against Texting, speak to you about the evils of texting while driving and tell you about their sad story and show you a movie.  And you pay extra for that. 

Does any of that seem outrageous well have a glass of wine or a joint and see if that works out for you.

And the next up is the evil weed we have a new way to stop and frisk.  I knew this and when that law came on the ballot here in Washington I voted no. Why because I knew we find a way to criminalize pot. What is more disturbing is that this one will not just target minorities, it will target "juveniles" as in anyone under 21.  Then add the elderly, white and they too will find out what that cancer brownie cost.

Add to that the costs to take the urine test first to see a positive for THC in the toxic urine screen then a blood test to determine the nanograms. And if you are prosecuted for below the legal BAC limit expect that to be the same Cheech.

And who is paying for all those costs?  Well you.  And if they don't bother with hospitals as in some jurisdictions, they can have you piss on the side of the road and then in turn also take your blood.  I really see a lot of Police doing this and preserving all that evidence needed for trial with utmost sanctity, don't you? 

Add to that many pot smokers are considered juveniles (under 21) so they will be processed as adults, and mommy junior's blood and DNA are now on file with the cops. This will work out well, I can feel it.

And to support any thesis or concept or law we will find the appropriate non profit organization/think tank to run a study that proves our thesis.  The PIRE has an interesting history with a founder who clearly was not a love child in the 60s and 70s.  And they are quoted in this article as the 'authority' from whom the NHTSA takes advice.  Advice well taken when it is both selective and biased. 

We are the prohibition nation, we take away the whole felony issues but this way we can make them vehicular felonies and they go to that court, which is not the same. Think of it as the idiotic drug courts only even more idiotic.  Jury of 12 no, 6. Think you will go to trial, no like regular court you will not. You will plea and unlike a felony conviction that can have a 2 year period of probation and can be expunged, that DUI is for life. And yet in most cases it a gross misdemeanor.

Gross isn't it?

Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana

FEB. 17, 2014

If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving, the police officer is likely to ask you to complete three tasks: Follow a pen with your eyes while the officer moves it back and forth; get out of the car and walk nine steps, heel to toe, turn on one foot and go back; and stand on one leg for 30 seconds.

Score well on all three of these Olympic events, and there’s a very good chance that you are not drunk. This so-called standard field sobriety test has been shown to catch 88 percent of drivers under the influence of alcohol.
But it is nowhere near as good at spotting a stoned driver.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, only 30 percent of people under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, failed the field test. And its ability to identify a stoned driver seems to depend heavily on whether the driver is accustomed to being stoned.

A 21-year-old on his first bender and a hardened alcoholic will both wobble on one foot. But the same is not necessarily true of a driver who just smoked his first joint and the stoner who is high five days a week.

In another study, 50 percent of the less frequent smokers failed the field test.

As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, distinctions like these will grow more and more important. But science’s answers to crucial questions about driving while stoned — how dangerous it is, how to test for impairment, and how the risks compare to driving drunk — have been slow to reach the general public.

“Our goal is to put out the science and have it used for evidence-based drug policy,” said Marilyn A. Huestis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “But I think it’s a mishmash.”

A 2007 study found that 12 percent of the drivers randomly stopped on American highways on Friday and Saturday nights had been drinking. (In return for taking part in the study, intoxicated drivers were told they would not be arrested, just taken home.)

Six percent of the drivers tested positive for marijuana — a number that is likely to go up with increased availability. Some experts and officials are concerned that the campaign against drunken driving has not gotten through to marijuana smokers.

“We’ve done phone surveys, and we’re hearing that a lot of people think D.U.I. laws don’t apply to marijuana,” said Glenn Davis, highway safety manager at the Department of Transportation in Colorado, where recreational marijuana use became legal on Jan. 1. “And there’s always somebody who says, ‘I drive better while high.’

Evidence suggests that is not the case. But it also suggests that we may not have as much to fear from stoned driving as from drunken driving. Some researchers say that limited resources are better applied to continuing to reduce drunken driving. Stoned driving, they say, is simply less dangerous.

Still, it is clear that marijuana use causes deficits that affect driving ability, Dr. Huestis said. She noted that several researchers, working independently of one another, have come up with the same estimate: a twofold increase in the risk of an accident if there is any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream.

The estimate is based on review papers that considered the results of many individual studies. The results were often contradictory — some of the papers showed no increase in risk, or even a decrease — but the twofold estimate is widely accepted.

The estimate is low, however, compared with the dangers of drunken driving. A recent study of federal crash data found that 20-year-old drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent — the legal limit for driving — had an almost 20-fold increase in the risk of a fatal accident compared with sober drivers. For older adults, up to age 34, the increase was ninefold.

The study’s lead author, Eduardo Romano, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said that once he adjusted for demographics and the presence of alcohol, marijuana did not statistically increase the risk of a crash.

“Despite our results, I still think that marijuana contributes to crash risk,” he said, “only that its contribution is not as important as it was expected.”

The difference in risk between marijuana and alcohol can probably be explained by two things, Dr. Huestis and Dr. Romano both say. First, stoned drivers drive differently from drunken ones, and they have different deficits. Drunken drivers tend to drive faster than normal and to overestimate their skills, studies have shown; the opposite is true for stoned drivers.

“The joke with that is Cheech and Chong being arrested for doing 20 on the freeway,” said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the U.C.L.A. School of Public Affairs.

Dr. Huestis also found that in laboratory studies, most people who were high could pass simple tests of memory, addition and subtraction, though they had to use more brainpower than sober people who passed the same tests. People who were drunk were much more likely to fail.

The deficits of being stoned really began to show up, she said, when people had to handle multiple tasks at once and were confronted with something unexpected.

“It’s typical to see a young adolescent with three or four other kids in the car,” she said of stoned driving. “He’s aware he might be impaired, so he’s driving carefully.

“But then he sees an old man in the middle of the street. All his senses say, ‘This guy is there but will be out of way by the time I get there.’ But then the old man drops his keys and he’s slower than the kid expected. By the time it takes to process a change in the situation, there’s an accident.”

Another factor is location. A lot of drinking is done in bars and clubs, away from home, with patrons driving to get there and then leaving by car. By contrast, marijuana smokers tend to get high at home.

There is a lot of debate about how best to prove that drivers under the influence of THC are too intoxicated to drive. Blood-alcohol content can be reliably tested on the side of the road with a Breathalyzer, and ample data link rising levels of blood alcohol to decreases in driving skills. The same is not true for marijuana.

THC levels must be measured from blood or urine samples, which are typically taken hours after an arrest. Urine tests, which look for a metabolite of THC rather than the drug itself, return a positive result days or weeks after someone has actually smoked. Yet most states have laws that equate any detectable level of THC metabolite in urine with detectable levels of actual THC in blood, and criminalize both.

Only six states have set legal limits for THC concentration in the blood. In Colorado and Washington, where recreational use has been legalized, that limit is five nanograms per milliliter of blood, or five parts per billion.

The problem, Dr. Huestis said, was that studies from Europe suggested that this limit was far too high. Ninety percent of impaired-driving cases in Sweden would be missed at that level, she said.

The studies indicated that a better limit would be just one nanogram per milliliter, she said. But because THC builds up in fatty tissue and is released slowly over time, such a limit would ensnare frequent users who may not actually be high. Indeed, if you smoke often enough, your blood-THC content might still be five nanograms per milliliter a day after you last lit up.

All of these facts lead experts like Dr. Romano and Dr. Kleiman to believe that public resources are better spent combating drunken driving. Stoned driving, they say, is best dealt with by discouraging people from mixing marijuana and alcohol — a combination that is even riskier than alcohol alone — and by policies that minimize marijuana’s risk on the road.

For instance, states that legalize recreational marijuana, Dr. Kleiman said, should ban establishments like pot bars that encourage people to smoke away from home. And Dr. Romano said that lowering the legal blood-alcohol concentration, or B.A.C., to 0.05 or even 0.02 percent would reduce risk far more effectively than any effort to curb stoned driving.

“I’m not saying marijuana is safe,” he said. “But to me it’s clear that lowering the B.A.C. should be our top priority. That policy would save more lives.”

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