DUI

Oregon: Clackamas County Sheriff Warns About 'Driving On Marijuana'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Clackamas County, Oregon Sheriff's Department on Thursday -- the first day of commercial sales to adults of cannabis concentrates, edibles and topicals under state legalization -- warned drivers not to operate motor vehicles while "impaired on marijuana."

"The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind people to use marijuana in a responsible manner," the department's prepared statement reads. "Additionally, operating a vehicle after consuming marijuana in any fashion is just as dangerous and illegal as driving while drunk.

"Marijuana is a substance that can adversely impair a person’s ability to safely drive a motor vehicle and can contribute to crashes, often resulting in serious injuries and even death," the release from Sheriff Craig Roberts' office claims. "Marijuana can impair the user for a period of up to 24 hours — so please plan ahead to have a sober driver or a place to stay the night.

"During this upcoming weekend, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office will be joining other law-enforcement agencies in providing enhanced patrols in order to ensure the continued safety of the citizens we serve," the release reads. "Between June 2 and June 5, deputies assigned to this DUII task force will have an emphasized focus on enforcing traffic safety laws, while also detecting and arresting impaired drivers.

U.S.: What Happened When States Legalized Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When the sale of marijuana for recreational use became legal in Colorado and Washington last year -- and in Oregon this year -- a few predictions, both good and bad, were made about the outcome. Here's what has actually happened so far.

Positives

• No increase in teen use: Opponents of legalization claimed young people would flock to weed if the legal penalties were removed. That hasn't happened, reports Daniel Dale at The Star. Major studies have found no increase in teen use in states the legalized medical marijuana; in Colorado, fewer students said they used pot after legalization than before.

• Tax windfall: Colorado has taken in more than $86 million in cannabis taxes and fees this year, far more than for alcohol. Washington state is predicting $1 billion in marijuana taxes over the next four years. "All that money that was going to criminals and the hands of cartels is now being sent toward legitimate taxpaying businesses," said Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Washington: Breath Test For Marijuana Coming Within A Year, Researchers Say

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When Washington voters approved I-502, the ballot initiative which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, most of them didn't think the DUI provision in the language wouldn't be a big deal; after all, they voted for it anyway. Those who warned about the unscientific 5 nanogram per milliliter cutoff point for THC -- a "bright line" based on numbers rather than actual impairment -- now have more reason than ever to worry, as a "breath test" is expected in the state within a year.

Researchers at Washington State University said they're about a year away from having a portable breath test that police can use to detect if someone recently used cannabis, reports Melissa Santos at the Tacoma News Tribune. Notice I said "recently used cannabis," not "impaired by cannabis"? That's because the test will reveal nothing about impairment -- but sadly, it will be used to charge people for exactly that.

Herbert Hill, a WSU chemistry professor working on the project, said his team has completed the first round of testing of the cannabis breathalyzer and has made some improvements. A second round of testing is about to begin, and Hill said police should have the device to use in the field sometime in 2016.

“For it to be used to help the arresting officer make a decision I hope is about a year away,” Hill said on Tuesday.

Washington: Troopers Remind Drivers of Marijuana 'Open Container' Law For Vehicles

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

You can't legally drive around in Washington state with an "open container" of marijuana. The state, thanks to a law passed by the Legislature last summer, now bans open cannabis containers in vehicles.

The law, which went into effect September 26, means that using marijuana in vehicles, or driving with open containers of cannabis or infused products, is illegal, repots Brooks Johnson at The Longview Daily News.

Washington State Patrol troopers said they are trying to get the word out, since they've encountered many motorists who had no idea that what they've been doing for years is suddenly against the law.

"One trooper reports contacting a motorist on a recent traffic stop who was carrying a quart-size plastic zip-lock full of 'pungent' marijuana buds in the console of his vehicle," according to a WSP press release. "The driver told the trooper he didn't know it was illegal to do so."

Marijuana and infused products, sealed in the original packaging, can be kept anywhere. But opened packages (jars or bags) must be kept in the trunk, or in a locked box out of reach of driver and passengers.

Packages shouldn't be stored in the glove compartment, according to the law, though it's OK to stash the weed behind the last row of seats.

Breaking the open container law is considered a traffic infraction, and comes with a $136 fine.

U.S.: Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson Calls WA State Pot Rules 'Worst-Case Scenario'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former two-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, now CEO of a marijuana company, on Sunday told an audience of cannabis industry representatives that voters, not politicians, are behind the legalization movement, and he called Washington state's troubled implementation of legalization Initiative 502 a "worst-case scenario."

Johnson, a vocal advocate of legalization and former Presidential candidate who plans to run again next year, gave the keynote speech at the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. About 750 people attended the conference, according to organizers.

Johnson, CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a publicly traded company producing marijuana-infused products.

When it comes to Washington's botched implementation of flawed legalization Initiative 502, Johnson was very critical of the over-taxation of cannabis in that model.

"How are they going to regulate it and make it a legal product? They have screwed it up as bad as they possibly can," Johnson said. "They have taxed it to the level where if you are a prior user of marijuana, prior to it being legal in Washington, you are still consuming it on the black market because of how expensive it is. It's the worst-case scenario and they have it playing out in Washington state."

"Pay attention to how you are taxing it," Johnson said. "You are moving the entire industry from a black market.

Colorado: Lawyer Voted Best DUI Attorney In State Decries THC Limits

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A criminal defense lawyer practicing in the Denver area who opposes Colorado's marijuana DUI law has been voted the state's best DUI attorney for 2014 by Law Week Colorado, the State Bar's official journal of record.

Jay Tiftickjian was honored for the third year in a row by Law Week, and the second for being voted Best DUI Lawyer by his peers.

Tiftickjian practices with three other attorneys in Tiftickjian Law Firm, P.C., which takes cases from across Colorado. He explained that the award was the result of a team effort made by the whole firm.

The Denver-based attorney said the award is particularly meaningful because the honor comes by way of peer recognition -- votes are collected from Colorado's attorneys and judges, including prosecutors.

"Every citizen is entitled to a full, fair, and aggressive defense under our system of justice," Tiftickjian said. "Our clients aren't criminals who've set out to harm others, they are regular folks who may have made a poor decision."

Colorado: Highway Fatalities Reach Near-Record Lows Since Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The "stoned driving" laws that accompany recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington were sold to us as being necessary for public safety; the specter of stoned drivers was presented as something dangerous and potentially deadly. Many weed-hating cops were quite happy to find there's still legal reason to arrest potheads. Reality, meanwhile, is telling another story, as highway fatalities in Colorado are nearing record lows since pot was legalized.

Marijuana opponents have darkly warned of a scourge of "high drivers," but the fact is, we can only test for the presence of marijuana metabolites, not for being actually high on cannabis, reports Radley Balko at The Washington Post. Because everyone metabolizes marijuana (and other substances) differently, all a positive test tells us for sure is that the driver has smoked pot at some point in the past few days or weeks. (This reporter once tested positive for THC metabolites 63 days after last using marijuana.)

Survey: 84% of Americans Say Driving After Drinking Worse Than Driving After Toking

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Americans believe it's worse to drive after drinking than after smoking marijuana, according to a new survey.

Querying 1,000 Internet users nationwide in a Google Survey during the month of April, just over 84 percent of those polled answered "alcohol" to the question, "Which is worse, driving after drinking or driving after smoking marijuana?"

"What's interesting about these findings is that despite the public's wide acceptance of drinking alcohol, especially wine and beer, there's a conflict in attitudes about how it impacts behavior," said international performance and learning trainer Shawn Lock, who conducted the survey. "While there's little stigma towards drinking in public versus smoking marijuana in public, there's a very different opinion when it comes to alcohol versus marijuana."

An avid wine enthusiast and president of winecraftsman.com, Lock focuses on how certain choices impact human behavior. He said he's been fascinated by the public's debate on issues surrounding alcohol versus marijuana.

Attitudes toward marijuana and driving were related to age, according to the survey. Nearly twice as many respondents over 65 felt marijuana was worse than did respondents in the 18 to 24 age range. "These findings are interesting in that states with younger populations might be more accepting towards legalizing marijuana whereas states with older populations might have a challenge," Lock said.

California: Accident Statistics Show No Evidence Of Marijuana DUI Crisis

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Drug DUI Bill Set for Hearings before Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday, April 29

The growing popularity of marijuana has raised public worries about the risk of an increase in driving accidents due to marijuana DUIs. Fortunately, the most recent federal highway safety statistics show no evidence of a MJ/drug driving epidemic.

According to data from NHTSA's Fatal Accident Recording System (FARS), the number of fatal highway accidents in California declined from 3,148 to 2,632 between 1999 and 2012; in the same period, the number of accident victims testing positive for marijuana increased from 105 to 402.

In short, highway safety actually improved while marijuana use increased in the past decade (this is true not only in California, but also nationwide). CA DUI arrests have likewise declined in the same period.

A closer examination of the data shows that marijuana use jumped suddenly around 2003-5, but has held steady ever since. Soon thereafter, accidents dropped substantially in 2006-2010 and are now 20 percent below their levels in the early 2000s.

Parallel trends have occurred nationwide. In the latest poll, a 54 percent-39 percent majority of Colorado voters say driving hasn't become more dangerous because of legal marijuana. "In short, there is no evidence of a pot DUI crisis - increased marijuana use is evidently compatible with improved driving safety," said Dale Gieringer, Ph.D., director of California NORML.

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Drivers Can't Be Charged With DUI For Inactive Marijuana Traces

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Drivers who have used cannabis cannot be charged with driving under its influence merely on that basis, even if some traces of it are still detected in their bloodstream, according to the Arizona Supreme Court, which made the ruling on April 22.

The state Supreme Court justices didn’t buy the arguments of the Maricopa County Attorney Office, which argued before the court back in November that drivers whose blood tests reveal the presence of an inactive metabolite of cannabis called carboxy-THC can be prosecuted for impaired driving, reports Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at the Arizona Republic.

The prosecutor was unable to convince the Arizona Supreme Court that the mere presence of the marijuana metabolite – which can remain in the bloodstream for more than 30 days – is valid evidence of actual impairment.

Marijuana users break Arizona law when the drive while “impaired to the slightest degree,” and if they are discovered with metabolites in their blood that are known to impair. But drivers cannot be convicted “based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect prior usage of marijuana,” wrote Justice Robert Brutinel.

Arizona: Prosecutor Says Smoking Marijuana Weeks Before Enough For DUI Charge

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There's nothing wrong with charging a motorist who smoked marijuana a month ago with impaired driving, an Arizona prosecutor told the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Susan Luder, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, admitted that carboxy-THC, a metabolite of marijuana, often shows up in drug tests a month after the last time an individual used cannabis, reports Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Services. She didn't even argue with her own expert witness, who said the presence of that metabolite does not indicate someone is impaired.

But, as strange as it seems, Luder told the Supreme Court justices that it is perfectly legal under Arizona law to prosecute someone for driving under the influence of marijuana when they haven't smoked for a month, and are not impaired at all.

Those convicted of driving while drugged can lose their driver's license for up to a year in Arizona.

Chief Justice Rebecca Burch wondered where, exactly, the line is if someone can be charged for impaired driving a month after using marijuana. She questioned if Luder's logic falls apart if carboxy-THC can be detected a year -- or even five years -- after someone last used pot.

Luder brushed aside such arguments, saying it's "up to the Legislature to decide."

Study: Marijuana Breath Test Could Offer Alternative To Controversial Blood Draws For Pot DUIs

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Colorado and Washington, with their new recreational marijuana laws, and the 20 medical marijuana states are grappling with the question of driving under the influence of cannabis. Lawmakers seem to feel some action is required, although there hasn't been anything remotely resembling a rash of marijuana-related accidents, as has been the case with alcohol.

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Chemistry suggests that a marijuana breath test might work for law enforcement to test for THC in drivers, like the "breathalyzer" test performed to determine the level of alcohol intoxication, reports Matt Ferner at The Huffington Post.

The THC blood test which is currently used remains controversial, especially since it involves blood being drawn from the suspect.

According to the new study, scientists collected breath samples from folks who used marijuana four or more times per week, and also from occasional users (fewer than two times per week) after they smoked a joint containing 6.8 percent THC.

Nevada: Medical Marijuana Patients Worry About Strict DUI Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana patients in Nevada, after 13 years of waiting, are finally about to get safe access through state-licensed dispensaries. At long last, they'll be able to obtain cannabis without breaking the law. But will they be allowed to drive?

The Nevada Legislature managed this session to pass a bill legalizing and licensing medicinal cannabis dispensaries, but they ran out of time working on a separate bill that addressed the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana, reports Steve Sebelius at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nevada's marijuana DUI standard, found in Revised Statues 484C.120(3), says it's against the law to drive with more than 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of active THC in your blood, or more than 5 nanograms of marijuana metabolites.

That's a stricter standard than exists for cocaine or heroin (50 ng/ml) methamphetamine (100 ng/ml) or LSD (10 ng/ml). There is no exception for patients who are authorized to use medical marijuana.

That means that patients could use their medicine, then drive a car even hours later, unimpaired, and potentially be breaking the DUI law, much like patients in Washington state under the new "legalization" law, I-502 (Washington's limit is 5 ng/ml of active THC).

Michigan: Driver Who Uses Medical Marijuana Wins Supreme Court Appeal

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that medical marijuana patients aren't automatically breaking the law against driving while impaired if they're caught driving after smoking pot.

The court, in a unanimous decision, overturned an appeals court decision in the case of Rodney Koon, a medical marijuana patient from Grand Traverse County, reports The Associated Press. Koon was stopped in 2010 for speeding, going almost 30 miles per hour over the limit.

He admitted having smoked medical marijuana earlier, and a blood test showed the presence of cannabis in his system.

It's illegal in Michigan to drive while under the influence of marijuana, but the state Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana patients have some protection. The court ruled that police must show a driver was actually impaired -- "under the influence" of marijuana for DUI charges to stick.

The medical marijuana law approved by 63 percent of Michigan's voters in 2008 "shields registered patients for the internal possession of marijuana," the judges unanimously ruled.

At the same time, the law forbids driving "while under the influence of marijuana." But it doesn't set a level above which drivers are considered to be "under the influence," the ruling said.

Illinois: Police Groups Claim Medical Marijuana Bill's DUI Tests Aren't Strict Enough

(Graphic: THCFinder.com)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two major law enforcement organizations in Illinois claim that DUI rules in a pending medical marijuana bill are not strict enough.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Sheriffs' Association on Wednesday sent a letter to Governor Pat Quinn and other state officials asking for tougher marijuana DUI safeguards, reportes The Associated Press.

The letter didn't mention the rather pertinent fact that according to one major study, states that have legalized medical marijuana see fewer fatal car accidents.

Medical marijuana laws were not significantly linked with changes in daytime crash rates, or those that didn't involve alcohol, according to the study.

Illinois' medical marijuana bill is scheduled for a Senate hearing on Wednesday. The idea has won approval in the Senate in past years, but police opposition could be a hurdle for this year's bill.

(Graphic: THCFinder.com)

Colorado: Marijuana DUI Bill Wins Unanimous Approval In House

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It took four tries, but the long battle over marijuana and driving appears to be nearing an unhappy end in Colorado. The state House on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill setting pot blood limits under which drivers can be charged with DUI-cannabis.

The bipartisan proposal sets the limit at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (5 ng/ml), the same as that approved last November by Washington state voters as part of Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults in that state, reports Kristen Wyatt at The Associated Press.

Unfortunately, there is little to no scientific evidence correlating blood THC levels of 5 ng/ml with actual impairment; several studies have shown that experienced cannabis users, in particular, are relatively or completely unimpaired at that level.

We caught up with Paul Stanford, president of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, as he visited THCF Medical Clinics' Denver office. "The bad example of Washington's I-502 has set an unfair, arbitrary example for Colorado and elsewhere," explained Stanford, who also runs the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), owners of Hemp News.

Colorado: Medical Marijuana Driving Limits Up For Vote

(Illustration: The Denver Channel)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

For the fourth time, the Colorado Legislature is trying to set driving limits for marijuana users and pass a DUI law.

HB 1114, scheduled for debate on Tuesday would set Colorado's THC limit at five nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mg), the same limit passed in Washington state by voters who approved Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in that state.

The Legislature has already tried and failed three times to pass a driving-while-high blood standard, reports The Denver Channel.

This year's version differs from the others in that it would allow drivers accused of driving while high to argue they were unimpaired despite a blood test above the legal threshold. Frequent marijuana users, particularly medicinal cannabis patients, report that their blood limits exceed 5 nanograms even while sober, for instance, when the first wake up in the morning before using cannabis.

Driving-while-high bills have passed the Colorado House in previous years, but failed in the Senate.

(Illustration: The Denver Channel)

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