Does Legalizing Marijuana Mean You Can Drive Stoned?
by Thor Benson, Daily Beast April 6, 2016 (excerpt)
As medical (and recreational) marijuana becomes ubiquitous, how will states tackle high drivers?
As someone who’s decided it was okay to drive after one too many joints, I know it’s a bad idea. Reaction time can slow, tiredness can ensue, and other aspects of your perception can make it unsafe to operate a vehicle. Many states are currently trying to tackle how to define when someone is too high to drive, and Hawaii is the latest to join the conversation.
Hawaii has decided it’s time to figure out when someone has smoked too much marijuana to operate a vehicle by requesting the state’s Department of Health study if there is a certain level of highness that is acceptable for the road. How high is too high? One of the more controversial policies the state could adopt, and one many states have adopted, is deciding if there’s a certain level of THC in the blood that indicates intoxication.
Washington and Colorado have policies dictating that anyone who registers five nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood is intoxicated. Pennsylvania has a policy of one nanogram. States like Arizona and Oklahoma have zero tolerance polices, meaning anyone who registers as having THC in their system while driving is violating the law. Don’t even go near a joint in Arizona or Oklahoma. Don’t even look at one.
If Hawaii follows any of these examples, many argue it will be criminalizing driving for medical marijuana patients and recreational users alike.
“Any state that has a zero tolerance limit is making a big mistake…The biggest problem with THC limits right now is they’re scientifically unsound,” Jeff Wilson, an attorney for McAllister Law Office in Denver, Colorado, told The Daily Beast. That law firm has handled many marijuana-focused cases, and he said they’ve discovered the science is very unsettled around how much THC someone has to have in their system to be intoxicated.
Wilson pointed to a case his law firm handled where a woman who was a medical marijuana patient had been tested at 25 nanograms per millimeter in her blood when she was driving, and the case ended up with a hung jury. That’s because the law firm was able to test her in their office and found due to the frequency in which she smokes, she’s constantly in the ballpark of 25 nanograms. She claimed she hadn’t even smoked the day she was pulled over.
That’s the issue. Marijuana stays in your system for a long time, because of how the body metabolizes it, which means someone could have smoked yesterday and test for over five nanograms today. A urine test will detect marijuana as long as 10 to 30 days after smoking, because it tests for THC byproducts, and a blood test that analyzes active THC molecules can detect marijuana consumption at least several days after the fact for regular users.
Wilson explained that alcohol levels peak once alcohol has been fully absorbed, while THC levels can reach peaks at several different times after someone consumes marijuana.
read … You Can Drive Stoned?