By on December 30, 2014

Cheech & Chong

How much marijuana is too much before getting the wheel? No one seems to know for sure despite the overwhelming support for related impaired-driving laws.

According to The Detroit Bureau, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found 85 percent of Americans are in support of marijuana-impairment legislation, but the definition itself is up in smoke. President and CEO Peter Kissinger explained that 16 states “forbid any presence of prohibited drugs, while five others have specific limits for marijuana.”

Other consistency issues go beyond just the amount in one’s bloodstream, such as when one would be fine to drive, and the low concern for drug-impaired driving compared to alcohol’s own effects, with only 50 percent feeling a “very serious” threat from Jeff Spicoli & Co.

Prescription drugs were found to be less a threat to other drivers than marijuana et al, where only 25 percent found usage of cold medications, certain antidepressants and medical marijuana a major threat on the highway.

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36 Comments on “Marijuana Legalization Prompting Examination Of Impaired-Driving Laws...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Ha, ha, everyone knows who the pot-smoking drivers are, they’re the ones who *aren’t* 80 years old driving 20 miles UNDER the limit

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    How about a universal impaired driving standard that trumps all the blood/breath testing etc.? We all know that everyone reacts differently to varying amounts of legal/illegal drugs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Ooh, rational idea, cool

      I think the costs of testing every “impaired” driver for every substance might be prohibitive

      • 0 avatar
        1998redwagon

        my take on principaldan’s comment is NOT to test for every substance. instead have a minimum sobriety or minimum functional standard. if a driver does not meet the minimum standard – regardless of the substance – that triggers the penalty.

        great idea. tough to come up with a field test that covers the minimum standard?

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Video cameras in police cruisers would do the trick. If you drive in a manner that 12 of your peers feel is unsafe for the conditions present during video capture, you’re out of luck. If you don’t, then why is anyone blood testing you and making you touch your nose, again?

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Lie2me – not really. A “Dip stick” of a urine sample will tell you the presence of THC, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates etc. rather quickly and cheaply. It won’t give you the level of blood concentration though.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Probably need that concentration number to make the arrest stick

          Which opens up a whole new illegal search and seizure can of worms, because just because you test positive for something doesn’t mean you’re impaired. At this rate everyone goes to jail and we no longer have to worry about it

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Lie2me – if they go to zero tolerance then a positive result is all they will need. They can draft a law that says immediate confiscation of vehicle and drivers licence with a positive result and further charges pending a blood sample demand.
            There are already those who support zero blood alcohol content so it wouldn’t be a stretch to ask for it across the board.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      You run into some serious lobbies if you impose ability testing. What age is impaired driving?

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Does it matter? Why should someone who can’t properly function as a driver be allowed to drive. I really like PrincipleDan’s concept. It shouldn’t matter why you are impaired, just that you are impaired.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      This is easy to implement. If you are at-fault for an incident, then your ability to drive must have been impaired somehow. The reason isn’t terribly important; only the severity of damage.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “How about a universal impaired driving standard that trumps all the blood/breath testing etc.?”

      In practice, that makes intoxication difficult to prove, and therefore difficult to obtain a conviction.

      DUI laws for alcohol are easy because we have statutory definitions of impairment: if you are .08, then you are considered drunk, irrespective of all other factors.

      But these kind of metrics don’t help with pot. Testing positive only proves that you’ve used it recently, not that you are under the influence at the time that the test was administered. The cops are going to have to work a lot harder and lose a lot higher percentage of cases in the process.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “How about a universal impaired driving standard that trumps all the blood/breath testing etc.?”

      In practice, that makes intoxication difficult to prove, and therefore difficult to obtain a conviction.

      DUI laws for alcohol are easy because we have statutory definitions of impairment: if you are .08, then you are cons1dered to be drunk, irrespective of all other factors.

      But these kind of metrics don’t help with pot. Testing positive only proves that you’ve used it recently, not that you are under the influence at the time that the test was administered. The cops are going to have to work a lot harder and lose a lot higher percentage of cases in the process.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Pch101 – that is correct. Another factor is the fact that marijuana has a long life in the body. It tends to get stored in fat. There isn’t enough research done that sets the threshold of impairment for THC,CBD or any other active component of marijuana.

        If legislators were to go after other drugs (legal or illegal) then there would need to be some sort of universal testing procedure that would indicate impairment.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        That’s the point we’re making though. It shouldn’t be intoxication that they’re going after, but impairment to driving. The reason shouldn’t matter. Figuring out a test for that might even be easier tests for every substance.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @MBella – easier said than done.
          The courts would be bogged down by experts arguing the pro’s and con’s of an “impairment” test.
          Even with something as simple as a blood sample one can spend a day in court being cross examined about technique and method of venipuncture. Even the type of test tube gets examined.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “It shouldn’t be intoxication that they’re going after, but impairment to driving.”

          That doesn’t make any sense. Impairment = intoxication.

          A positive test for pot is an indication that marijuana was used sometime within the last few days. That is not useful for determining whether someone is driving under the influence.

          The point remains that the use of blood and urine tests to determine impaired driving is good for alcohol, but it is not good for pot. Alcohol metabolizes more quickly, so the BAC tests are useful. Pot is going to require something more subjective, such as the observational skills of those who are trained to identify behaviors, which makes the evidence less reliable and more prone to being dismissed from court.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The lack of a methodology to monetize marijuana specific impaired driving legislation may explain the dearth of official police, insurance and court interest. No one markets a marijuana “breathalyser” that will cheaply, easily, and profitably measure the drug in a driver’s bloodstream. Interest is unlikely to move beyond talk until there’s real money to be made.

  • avatar
    Jimss

    Here is better info…

    4. Drugged driving is a threat to our roadways.

    It is plausible that greater cannabis use could lead to less carnage on the road. States that legalized medical cannabis actually saw an overall drop in vehicle related fatalities. They also saw a decrease in alcohol consumption:

    “The first full year after coming into effect, [medical marijuana] legalization is associated with an 8 to 11 percent reduction in the fatality rate.”
    “We find that the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with reduced alcohol consumption, especially among young adults.”
    Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption. Journal of Law and Economics. 2013

    An extensive 2013 review of 66 studies regarding crash risk and drug use found that cannabis was associated with minor, but not statistically significant increased odds of injury or fatal accident:

    The estimated fatal crash odds for cannabis, 1.26, were lower than:
    1.68 – Opiates
    2.30 – Antianxiety meds
    2.60 – Zopiclone (sleep medicine)
    2.96 – Cocaine
    5.17 – Amphetamines

    The estimated injury odds for cannabis, 1.10, were lower than:
    1.12 – Antihistamines
    1.12 – Penicillin
    1.17 – Antianxiety meds
    1.35 – Antidepressants
    1.31 – Antiasthmatics
    1.42 – Zopiclone (sleep medicine)
    1.66 – Cocaine
    1.91 – Opiates

    The study concluded: “By and large, the increase in the risk of accident involvement associated with the use of drugs must be regarded as modest. … Compared to the huge increase in accident risk associated with alcohol, as well as the high accident rate among young drivers, the increases in risk associated with the use of drugs are surprisingly small.”
    Elvik R. Risk of road accident associated with the use of drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence from epidemiological studies. Accident Analysis Prevention. 2013. Review.

    Early reports show a possible decrease in fatal accidents after legalization:

    “The number of fatal crashes also dropped 25.5% from 2013 to 2014 during the first quarter”
    The Great Colorado Weed Experiment. New York Times. Aug 2, 2014.

    Also go to you tube search “Marijuana driving test” for your observation

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Murkying the waters here, quite a bit.

    If you’ve been smoking pot all night, in general, an officer can tell!

    White substance on your tongue (lol, “cotton mouth”)- check.

    Eyes clearly blood shot?- check.

    There’s more detection factors than that. Yes, you can be charged with DUI if said officer has an inclination that you’ve been “chiefing”.

    Don’t ride with your buds (keep it at home, kiddies). A little here and there is good for the soul, and damned good for your vision… but if you’ve been chain smoking for the hell of it, best not to drive!

    Now, queue “The More You Know” Theme Song.

    You’re welcome :)

  • avatar
    carguy

    The road fatality rate in states with legal weed have not increased since legalization so why the concern?

    Also, if there is talk of expanding the detection of impairing substances then they had better also include Valium, Xanax, opiate painkillers and antidepressants.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The bitch is :

    I don’t smoke pot but I *did* grow up (sorta) then so I still find all those movies and jokes, songs etc. very funny .

    Try explaining this when you’re in a roomfull of L.A.P.D. or L.A.S.O….

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    My two cent’s worth, from personal experience.
    Back prior to the mid 80’s when I “gave up the habit” I drove stoned more often than not. I was smoking behind the wheel basically, easily logged a good hundred thousand miles. I will concede modern cannabis is far stronger, but that said, even then I would smoke until a certain point was reached, and that varied according to quality back then. (Insert joke here about how f******g boring and tedious the 55 speed limit was) There is a widespread false equivalency in people’s minds between alcohol and cannabis. Most certainly drunk driving is far more dangerous. To this day I routinely ski with friends who slip into the woods and get baked and go right back back out on the trail and ski and ride with the best, including in the bumps. Skiing bumps is mentally, judgmentally, and demanding of accurate physical-motor responses, that are orders of magnitude more demanding than normal street driving. If all the drunk drivers on the road today could be dosed with cannabis rather ethanol, traffic fatalities would likely go down by many thousands per year.

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