Posts Tagged ‘marijuana ticket’
Officers look for signs of drug impairment. Without a standard in most states for the amount of pot allowable in a driver’s system, police administer a lengthy 12-point examination.
(Joe McHugh, CHP / July 3, 2011)By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
July 2, 2011, 3:46 p.m.It was his green tongue that helped give away Jimmy Candido Flores when police arrived at the fatal accident scene near Chico.
Flores had run off the road and killed a jogger, Carrie Jean Holliman, a 56-year-old Chico elementary school teacher. California Highway Patrol officers thought he might be impaired and conducted a sobriety examination. Flores’ tongue had a green coat typical of heavy marijuana users and a later test showed he had pot, as well as other drugs, in his blood.After pleading guilty to manslaughter, Flores, a medical marijuana user, was sentenced in February to 10 years and 8 months in prison.
Holliman’s death and others like it across the nation hint at what experts say is an unrecognized crisis: stoned drivers.
The most recent assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, based on random roadside checks, found that 16.3% of all drivers nationwide at night were on various legal and illegal impairing drugs, half them high on marijuana.
In California alone, nearly 1,000 deaths and injuries each year are blamed directly on drugged drivers, according to CHP data, and law enforcement puts much of the blame on the rapid growth of medical marijuana use in the last decade. Fatalities in crashes where drugs were the primary cause and alcohol was not involved jumped 55% over the 10 years ending in 2009.
“Marijuana is a significant and important contributing factor in a growing number of fatal accidents,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy in the White House and former Seattle police chief. “There is no question, not only from the data but from what I have heard in my career as a law enforcement officer.”
As the medical marijuana movement has gained speed — one-third of the states now allow such sales — federal officials are pursuing scientific research into the impairing effects of the drug.
The issue is compounded by the lack of a national standard on the amount of the drug that drivers should be allowed to have in their blood. While 13 states have adopted zero-tolerance laws, 35 states including California have no formal standard, and instead rely on the judgment of police to determine impairment.
Even the most cautious approach of zero tolerance is fraught with complex medical issues about whether residual low levels of marijuana can impair a driver days after the drug is smoked. Marijuana advocates say some state and federal officials are trying to make it impossible for individuals to use marijuana and drive legally for days or weeks afterward.
Marijuana is not nearly as well understood as alcohol, which has been the subject of statistical and medical research for decades.
“A lot of effort has gone into the study of drugged driving and marijuana, because that is the most prevalent drug, but we are not nearly to the point where we are with alcohol,” said Jeffrey P. Michael, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s impaired-driving director. “We don’t know what level of marijuana impairs a driver.”
A $6-million study in Virginia Beach, Va., is attempting to remove any doubt that users of pot and other drugs are more likely to crash. Teams of federal researchers go to accident scenes and ask drivers to voluntarily provide samples of their blood. They later return to the same location, at the same time and on the same day of the week, asking two random motorists not involved in crashes for a blood sample.
The project aims to collect 7,500 blood samples to show whether drivers with specific blood levels of drugs are more likely to crash than those without the drugs, said John Lacey, a researcher at the nonprofit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.
In other projects, test subjects are being given marijuana to smoke and then examined under high-powered scanners or put in advanced driving simulators to gauge how it affects their brains and their ability to drive.
Federal scientists envision a day when police could quickly swab saliva from drivers’ mouths and determine whether they have an illegal level of marijuana, but that will require years of research. Until then, police are in the same position they were with drunk driving in the 1950s, basing arrests on their professional judgment of each driver’s behavior and vital signs.
If police suspect a driver is stoned, they now administer a lengthy 12-point examination. The driver must walk a straight line and stand on one leg, estimate the passage of 30 seconds and have pupils, blood pressure and pulse checked.
Chuck Hayes, national coordinator for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police based in Washington, D.C., says the system works well to identify impaired drivers, and any future legal limit or medical test would be just another tool rather than a revolutionary change.
“We are not concerned about levels or limits. We are concerned with impairment,” Hayes said.Indeed, even among law enforcement experts, the need for a standard is debated. Many support tried-and-true policing methods that can ferret out stoned drivers.
“Everybody wants a magic number, because that makes it easy,” said Sarah Kerrigan, a toxicologist at Sam Houston State University in Texas and an expert witness in numerous trials. “To have a law that says above a certain level you are impaired is not scientifically supportable. I don’t think police need the tool, but my opinion may be in the minority.”But federal officials and local prosecutors argue that the lack of a standard makes convictions harder to obtain.
In October, a San Diego jury acquitted Terry Barraclough, a 60-year-old technical writer and medical marijuana user, on manslaughter charges in a fatal crash that occurred shortly after he had smoked marijuana.
A blood test showed he had high levels of active marijuana ingredients in his blood, but the jury heard conflicting expert testimony from toxicologists about the possible effects.
Martin Doyle, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Barraclough, said the acquittal showed that the lack of a formal legal limit on marijuana intoxication makes such prosecutions tough.
“We don’t have a limit in California and that made my prosecution very difficult,” Doyle said. “We have a lapse in the law.”
But defense attorney Michael Cindrich said the failed prosecution shows that the San Diego district attorney was targeting medical marijuana users and that any legal limit would be unfair to the people who rely on the drug to treat their problems.
Indeed, Anthony Cardoza, an attorney who represented Flores in the Chico accident, said his client was not impaired and that allegations about his green tongue were ridiculous. Flores’ guilty plea was prompted by other legal issues, including a prior conviction for a drunk driving accident that caused an injury.
Marilyn Huestis, a toxicologist and one of the nation’s top experts on marijuana at the National Institute on Drug Abuse who is directing several research programs, said she believed there is no amount of marijuana that a person can consume and drive safely immediately afterward.
Supporters of marijuana legalization agree that the drug can impair a driver, but argue that the effects wear off in a few hours. Huestis, however, said research was showing that the effects of marijuana can linger.
Marijuana’s main ingredient — delta-9 THC — stays in the blood for an hour or more and then breaks down into metabolites that are both psychoactive and inert. But the impairing effects can linger, even after the THC is no longer in the blood, Huestis said. Because it can be absorbed into body tissue and slowly released for days, Huestis believes that heavy chronic daily users may be impaired in ways that are not yet understood.
A complicating factor is the tendency of many marijuana users to also use alcohol, which can sharply amplify impairment. Very little research has been conducted to determine whether it is possible to set limits on a combination of such substances.
Paul Armentano, deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said some states had laws that can punish users even when they are not high, pointing to a tough Arizona statute that allows conviction for impaired driving when an inert metabolite is detected in the blood.
Arizona officials said they wrote the law because there was no scientific agreement on how long marijuana impairs a driver. But proponents see something more sinister: an effort to put marijuana users in constant legal jeopardy.
“We are not setting a standard based on impairment, but one similar to saying that if you have one sip of alcohol you are too drunk to drive for the next week,” Armentano said.
You can read more on this article here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-pot-drivers-20110703,0,3288424.story?page=2&utm_medium=feed&track=rss&utm_campaign=Feed%3A%20MostEmailed%20%28L.A.%20Times%20-%20Most%20E-mailed%20Stories%29&utm_source=feedburner
Last week I wrote an article, ‘When Will Marijuana Be Legal?‘ The purpose of the article was to illustrate to readers that many consumers take the legalization movement for granted, and assume that legalization will come quick and easy. In actuality, due to the election cycle, fragmentation of the coalition, and outright laziness, recreational legalization is going to take longer than people think. Just look at the comments on that article and you will see what I am talking about.
The comments from that article inspired me to write today’s article. To give some background about my perspective, I have been an OMMP patient/caretaker/grower in Oregon since 2006. I have been a recreational consumer since 1993. I use my doctor endorsed medical marijuana often, especially on days where the pain is more prevalent. However, I also consume marijuana for recreational enjoyment as well. Oregon Revised Statutes do not provide guidance to the OMMP on how to differentiate between the two; if you are an OMMP patient you get to consume cannabis in a private area with State protection, whether it’s recreational or medical.
I was fighting for marijuana policy reform since the mid 90′s. Oregon did not get a medical marijuana program until 1998, and it wasn’t until years later that it was expanded to cover my ailments. Maybe I am a little biased due to the fact that I was fighting for recreational legalization before I was fighting for medical marijuana. However, I feel that just because I received my OMMP approval it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t still fight for full legalization.
I have long dreamed of a day when I could consume without any fears of repercussion from law enforcement. Despite the fact that I have my paperwork on me at all times, I still worry that I am going to be confronted by a member of law enforcement that is on a personal mission to inject his/her views on the subject into their job. A cop can do whatever they want to do, and it’s up to the defendant to prove their innocence thereafter, despite the claim that we are a system of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Just ask anyone that has been falsely accused, and had to pay high legal fees to get their lives to the same status as before the cops’ wrath. I know there will be readers that will say, ‘then you can sue after you win!’ but let’s get serious, you have to have pay more legal fees, and maybe you win the next case as well. That’s not nearly as simple as ‘yes officer, I have cannabis on my person and/or in my vehicle, but it is legal, so kick rocks…’
I hope fellow medical marijuana patients understand that I hear their argument, and it is very valid. This was the comment from my previous article that I think sums up the mood of many mmj patients:
“I focus only on patient needs. We are struggling with just that issue. If you want to throw everything into the equation, you will never win in our lifetime…and patients will definitely lose. Don’t try to win your goal for legalization for everyone on the backs of patients. It’s seriously pissing us off.”
- – Steve Sarich CannaCare
I understand where many patients are coming from when they feel this way. They use marijuana to alleviate their horrendous conditions, and see teenagers at the clinic getting their medical card/prescription when they look perfectly healthy. As with any government program, there are going to be loopholes and people taking advantage of the situation. It is absolutely disgusting to think that there are so many people suffering that need medical marijuana to tolerate living, and that there are people faking conditions to get a card. However, speaking as both a patient and a proponent of recreational legalization, I do honestly feel that we are in the same fight together.
Another reader made a very valid point:
“If there were assurances that the program would be left alone, AS IS, I might take your side. However, if you think that the medicinal cannabis business is safe and secure, guess again. The right wingers dismantled the entire system. They just gave the medicinal cannabis program in Colorado some revisions that are designed to make the program unworkable, and the guy who designed that fiasco said that he’s coming to California to “help us with our problem”. – Kevin
I think Kevin is correct. Without the votes of both medical marijuana members/sympathizers and recreational users, both groups are left open to attacks from those that wish to harm safe access. I can’t speak for all jurisdictions, but up here in Oregon, most of the members of one cannabis organization are also members of other cannabis organizations, both medical and recreational. These people also don’t think it’s cool to ‘ride the backs of patients,’ but they realize that there are clear benefits to banding together with like minded people.
Just as there are many in the MMJ community that are not happy about the recreational crowd, there are some in the recreational crowd that feel the same way toward the MMJ community. I have more acquaintances that are recreational users than medical consumers by far. There are not a lot, but there are some nonetheless, that feel the MMJ community turned their back on recreational users once the programs were started because cardholders already had their legal coverage. One guy I know very well always says, ‘We (recreational community) voted for medical marijuana in Oregon, when is it our turn for full legalization? All my card holding friends don’t go to any rallies anymore, they don’t collect signatures anymore, they just protect their own interests instead of going all the way on this thing.’ Like I said, that’s not MY opinion, but it’s something that I think is part of the conversation and comes up often.
What I do feel is that we are in this together. As a cardholder myself, I feel that medical marijuana should come first out of compassion, but that the fight should go on for full legalization out of a desire to apply logic to government. Anyone that has consumed marijuana, medical or recreational, will attest that it is not the menace that some make it out to be. In fact, it is a wonder plant that can be applied to so many facets of living. I am lucky enough to live in a state that recognizes the medicinal powers of marijuana. I wish it would be more widely applied so we could get the nation off of so many other harmful drugs. I also wish people could use it legally to relax from a long day instead of consuming large amounts of alcohol.
What do readers think? I welcome views from both sides, and as always, even people that disagree with me. I would much rather be wrong and create a constructive conversation than be right and bring zero awareness and education. Do you think that lumping the two causes together hinders the progress of either cause? I look forward to what people have to say.
|Antoine Dodson in the “Bed Intruder Song” video from YouTube|
Antoine “Bed Intruder” Dodson, whose TV news rant against a would-be rapist became a viral music video and his expressway to stardom, appeared in an Alabama city court on Monday, facing marijuana possession charges along with four other misdemeanors.
|Photo: Flawless Hustle|
Yes, I know what the car smells like, officer.
|Photo: News @ Northeastern|
|I like this guy: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland|
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