Falcon Beach RCMP made a drug bust on a residence in that area on Friday.
Falcon Beach RCMP made a drug bust on a residence in that area on Friday.
Over past years, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has been successful in getting legislation passed across the country criminalizing the presence of a largely arbitrary level of alcohol in a driver’s blood.
Whereas previously the drunk driving laws made it illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, the new ones didn’t care about impairment but simply made it a crime to have a blood-alcohol level of .08% or higher. It didn’t matter if a given driver had higher than average tolerance to alcohol; whether a citizen was impaired and a danger or not was no longer relevant. The crime was the presence of alcohol in the body.
This, of course, made it much easier to prosecute and convict citizens of drunk driving — even if they weren’t "drunk".
Now that strategy is increasingly being adopted by states for the offense of "driving while stoned" — that is, driving while under the influence of marijuana. As with alcohol, it is more difficult to prove that a citizen’s driving ability is impaired by marijuana than it is to prove that there is an arbitrary amount of it in his body.
Solution: criminalize the presence of a given amount of cannabis in the blood. Of course, there is little scientific consensus as to what levels of marijuana cause driving impairment. But the result will be more arrests, prosecutions — and more unimpaired drivers convicted.
"The ends justify the means", right?
Colorado Senate Gives Initial OK to Stoned-Driving Limits
Denver, CO. May 2 – The Colorado Senate Tuesday gave initial approval to a bill making it easier to convict people of driving while stoned, in the toughest test yet for the proposal…
The measure, Senate Bill 117, would set a limit of THC — the psychoactive chemical in marijuana — in the blood above which it would be illegal to drive. King said numerous studies suggest that the large majority of people with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood are impaired.
[Bill sponsor Steve] King said the bill is needed to stem what appears to be an increase in stoned driving in Colorado. Drivers whose blood tested positive for THC at the state toxicology lab have increased from a couple hundred in 2009 to more than 1,000 last year, King said…
Opponents say that research isn’t conclusive that everybody is stoned at 5 ng and that the bill would result in sober drivers being convicted. Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, called the bill, "a shortcut on burden of proof." Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said state law already makes it illegal to drive while stoned — including for those drivers who are impaired at less than 5 ng.
"I would prefer to stick with current law, where the question of impairment is put to a jury and where evidence of someone’s conduct is presented in court," Steadman said.
Steadman said the bill would hurt medical-marijuana patients who regularly use marijuana and may have higher baseline levels of THC in their blood.
But King said the bill sends an important message that driving high is not OK.
"What I’m saying is, you can’t get high and drive," King said. "It has an impact on the rest of us. You can smoke and wait. You can smoke and walk. You can smoke and find a ride. But you cannot smoke and drive."
Fourteen other states have laws creating a THC limit for driving — laws that are known as "per se" laws. Several other states have zero-tolerance driving laws for THC.
Notice the focus of the law in the opening line of the story: "a bill making it easier to convict people". Not a bill to reduce casualties on the highways. Not a bill to punish criminals. No, a bill making it easier to convict citizens.
The great legal scholar Blackstone famously stated back in the 1760s: "Better that ten guilty guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer". That revered old legal principle has been reversed in DUI cases..
The concept goes back even further — much further. From Genesis 18:23-32 of the Bible:
Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are in it? What if ten are found there?". He [The Lord] said, "I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake".
The dragnet approach to justice. Yet another example of what I have termed "The DUI Exception to the Constitution".
I’ve discussed in the past how difficult it is (1) to recognize and identify whether a person’s driving ability is impaired by marijuana, and (2) to prove with observable and chemical evidence the existence of that impairment. See, for example, DUI Marijuana: Does Marijuana Impair Driving? and Driving + Trace of Marijuana = DUI.
The following news story does an excellent job of highlighting some of the issues of a growing problem:
New Wrinkle in Pot Debate: Stoned Driving
Denver, CO. March 18 – Angeline Chilton says she can’t drive unless she smokes pot. The suburban Denver woman says she’d never get behind the wheel right after smoking, but she does use medical marijuana twice a day to ease tremors caused by multiple sclerosis that previously left her homebound.
"I don’t drink and drive, and I don’t smoke and drive," she said. "But my body is completely saturated with THC."
Her case underscores a problem that no one’s sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive?
States that allow medical marijuana have grappled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue.
A Denver marijuana advocate says officials are scrambling for limits in part because more drivers acknowledge using the drug.
"The explosion of medical marijuana patients has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement’s face, saying, `You can’t do anything to me, I’m legal,’" said Sean McAllister, a lawyer who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.
It’s not that simple. Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states.
But it highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test.
Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving.
But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone’s level of impairment — not that scientists haven’t been working on it.
Dr. Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government research lab, says that soon there will be a saliva test to detect recent marijuana use.
But government officials say that doesn’t address the question of impairment.
"I’ll be dead — and so will lots of other people — from old age, before we know the impairment levels" for marijuana and other drugs, said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
Authorities recognize the need for a solution. Marijuana causes dizziness, slowed reaction time and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they’re high…
Physicians say that while many tests can show whether someone has recently used pot, it’s more difficult to pinpoint impairment at any certain time.
Urine and blood tests are better at showing whether someone used the drug in the past — which is why employers and probation officers use them. But determining current impairment is far trickier.
"There’s no sure answer to that question," said Dr. Guohua Li, a Columbia University researcher who reviewed marijuana use and motor vehicle crashes last year.
His survey linked pot use to crash risk, but pointed out wide research gaps. Scientists do not have conclusive data to link marijuana dosing to accident likelihood; whether it matters if the drug is smoked or eaten; or how pot interacts with other drugs.
The limited data has prompted a furious debate.
Proposed solutions include setting limits on the amount of the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, that drivers can have in their blood. But THC limits to determine impairment are not widely agreed upon.
Two states place the standard at 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Others have zero tolerance policies. And Colorado and Washington state are debating a threshold of 5 nanograms.
Such an attempt failed the Colorado Legislature last year, amid opposition from Republicans and Democrats. State officials then set up a task force to settle the question — and the panel couldn’t agree.
This year, Colorado lawmakers are debating a similar measure, but its sponsors concede they don’t know whether the "driving while high" bill will pass.
In Washington state, the ballot measure on marijuana legalization includes a 5 nanogram THC limit.
The measure’s backers say polling indicates such a driving limit could be crucial to winning public support for legalization…
The White House, which has a goal of reducing drugged driving by 10 percent in the next three years, wants states to set a blood-level standard upon which to base convictions, but has not said what that limit should be.
Administration officials insist marijuana should remain illegal, and Kerlikowske called it a "bogus argument" to say any legal level of THC in a driver is safe.
But several factors can skew THC blood tests, including age, gender, weight and frequency of marijuana use. Also, THC can remain in the system weeks after a user sobers up, leading to the anxiety shared by many in the 16 medical marijuana states: They could be at risk for a positive test at any time, whether they had recently used the drug or not.
(Thanks to Andre Campos.)
According to a study published in the latest British Medical Journal, researchers at Dalhousie University have concluded that driving under the influence of marijuana almost doubles the risk of a fatal or serious car collision. The study is an especial concern for motorists, as it is the most used illegal narcotic and use of the drug seems to be growing among drivers.
According to the researchers, driving under the influence of marijuana is a bigger problem now than drunk driving in some areas. Part of the problem, according to the study’s authors, is that marijuana is easy to get, inexpensive, and readily available. As well, while the dangerous effects of drunk driving have been stressed again and again in public service announcements and the media, many young drivers, especially, do not believe that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous. According to associate professor Mark Asbridge, who headed the study, even some designated drivers will smoke marijuana, erroneously believing that it will not impair them.
Another problem is that past studies on the effects of marijuana have not always established a definitive link between marijuana use and car collisions, making it easy for some people to suggest that marijuana is a safer option for motorists. The Dalhousie Research team combined data about 49, 411 drivers from the US, France, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
All the car accidents examined in the study involved at least one vehicle on a public road.
According to the study, drivers who used marijuana within two to three hours of driving faced a 92% greater risk of being involved in a fatal or serious injury. According to the study, marijuana affects spatial awareness, perception, motor skills, and other skills that drivers need to stay safely.
Some countries, including the US, do have saliva roadside tests for marijuana. The tests can detect recent marijuana use, but the tests are not widely used and are controversial. As well, some experts have stated that more research needs to be done to see whether random drug tests of drivers will reduce marijuana-related car accidents.
It is unknown how many North Miami car crashes each year are caused by marijuana use. In many cases, drivers are not tested for the substance after a crash. However, the newest study suggests that more can be done to alert the public about the dangers of driving impaired under the influence of marijuana. Awareness can possibly help to prevent some of the North Miami truck accidents and car accidents caused by controlled substances.
If you have been injured in a North Miami motorcycle accident, car accident, or any traffic accident and you believe that the at-fault driver was driving under the influence, you may want to discuss your case with a qualified North Miami personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can get you answers about the accident, can determine whether you have a case, and can help you understand your rights and options.