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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.: AAA Says There's No Scientific Basis For Laws Against Driving On Marijuana

SafeDriver[WestCoastLeaf]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Six states that allow marijuana use in one form or another have legal tests which supposedly serve to determine who is driving while impaired -- but those tests have no scientific basis at all, according to a study done by the largest auto club in the United States. AAA, as a result, has called for scrapping those laws.

The study was commissioned by AAA's safety foundation, and it discovered that it's not possible to determine impairment by setting a blood-test threshold for the level of THC, the main component of marijuana responsible the high. Yet the laws in five of those six states automatically presume a driver is guilty of driving while impaired if he or she tests higher than the limit, not not guilty if the level is lower, reports the Associated Press.

The AAA foundation recommends replacing those faulty laws with ones that actually rely on science, using specially trained police officers to determine if a driver is impaired on pot, backed up by a test for the presence of THC rather than a specific level. The officers would be responsible for screening for dozens of supposed indicators of marijuana use.

Vermont: Governor Calls For Marijuana Legalization In State of the State Address

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Gov. Peter Shumlin Declares Drug War a Failure and Calls for Expanded Overdose Prevention and Treatment Access

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on Thursday, in his final State of the State address, called on lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The Governor also declared the Drug War a failure and expressed desire to continue emphasizing a health-based approach to drug policy by expanding treatment and overdose prevention programs, as well as by removing the stigma associated with drug use and addiction.

"The outdated war on drugs has also failed," said Shumlin, "and there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws."

“Pete Shumlin is providing just the sort of leadership we need to see from other governors around the country,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Indeed, it’s a bit surprising, with a majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization, that he’s the only sitting governor to actively call for it. I’m hopeful this is the start of a new trend.”

Gov. Shumlin stressed that a marijuana legalization measure should contain the following:

• A legal market to keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids;
• Tax imposed must be low enough to wipe out the black market and get rid of illegal drug dealers;
• Revenue from legalization must be used to expand addiction prevention programs;
• Strengthened law enforcement capacity to improve our response to impaired drivers

Washington: Driver Gets 6 Months For Crash That Likely Had Nothing To Do With Marijuana

MarijuanaDUI

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

During the campaign leading up to the passage of marijuana legalization Initiative 502 in Washington state in 2012, many activists -- this writer included -- expressed grave concerns about the effect of 502's unscientific, arbitrary per-se cutoff point of 5 nanograms per milliliter as a "bright line" beyond which motorists are considered too high to drive. On Tuesday, a Vancouver, Washington marijuana user got a six-month jail sentence, followed by five years of probation, in a case that illustrates exactly why we were worried.

You see, the new definition of stoned driving established by I-502 has nothing to do with impairment, unlike the old law. Before, law enforcement had to prove actual impairment if they wanted to convict motorists of driving under the influence of marijuana, but now, all they need is a test showing marijuana metabolites above 5 ng/ml in the driver's blood. Impairment doesn't even matter anymore in a "driving under the influence" case; we've passed through the looking glass.

U.S.: Increasing Percentages of Americans Ready For Legal Marijuana

HarrisPollMoreAmericansAreReadyForLegalMarijuana

A new Harris Poll finds that the growing acceptability of marijuana among state lawmakers reflects attitudinal shifts amongst the general American public since 2011. Support for the legalization of marijuana for both medical treatment and recreational use has increased by seven percentage points over the past four years.

Currently, four in five adults (81 percent) favor legalizing marijuana for medical use, up from 2011 when three quarters of Americans (74 percent) indicated the same. Meanwhile, according to Harris, half of Americans are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (49 percent), up from the two fifths (42 percent) who felt that way in 2011.

• Nearly nine in ten Democrats and Independents are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical treatment (87 percent & 86 percent, respectively) and over half support recreational use (58 percent & 55 percent, respectively)
• While a majority - albeit a slimmer one - of Republicans also support the legalization medical marijuana (69 percent support, 23 percent oppose), a similar majority opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use (27 percent support, 65 percent oppose).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,221 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 11 and 17, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Federal law or each state for itself?

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

GaryJohnsonSmilingPointingLiveFree[EddieMoore-AlbuquerqueJournal]

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.

U.S.: NHTSA Study Concludes Marijuana Doesn't Increase Car Crashes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that smoking marijuana before driving doesn't make you more likely to get into a car crash, especially when compared to drinking before driving.

The study looked at 9,000 drivers over the past year to examine the impact of cannabis on driving, reports Carimah Townes at ThinkProgress. Although one-quarter of marijuana users were more likely to be involved in a car crash than people who did not toke, once the gender, age, and race/ethnicity of cannabis users were considered, it turned out that these differences actually contributed more to crash risk. Younger drivers crashed more than older ones, and men had more crashes than women.

Drivers who consumed alcohol, of course, were clearly more likely to crash. Those with a 0.08 percent breath alcohol level crashed four times more than sober drivers, and drivers with a level of 0.15 percent were 12 times more likely to crash.

Testing positive for marijuana was defined in the study as having delta-9 tetahydrocannabinol (THC) in the system.

However, marijuana does affect drivers' senses, according to the study, and the number of drivers with THC in their systems in on the rise. "Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness," said Jeff Michael, director of the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection.

Survey: Americans More Concerned About Driving Effects of Alcohol Over Marijuana

MarijuanaIsSaferThanAlcohol

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With the recent legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, there's a scare campaign by drug war advocates who want the American public to be afraid of the supposed menace of pot-impaired drivers. Many Americans, however, aren't really buying it, according to a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Despite the inclusion of per-se impairment levels for blood THC in Washington state's Initiative 502, for example, the Foundation's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index reveals that, compared to alcohol, Americans are significantly less concerned about the thread of marijuana impairment behind the wheel.

The survey found that while two-thirds feel that those who drive after drinking pose a "very serious" threat to their personal safety, just over half feel the same way about pot use. In fact, one in six Americans repoprt that, where they live, "most people" feel it's acceptable to drive one hour after using cannabis.

The scare campaigns are, unfortunately, having some effect. The survey found that nearly half of Americans reported feeling that drug-impaired drivers are a "bigger problem" today than compared to three years ago. Fully 85 percent support some form of marijuana-impairment laws when it comes to operating motor vehicles.

But Americans are quite unclear on impairment thresholds (naturally, since there's no convincing science showing a "bright line" cutoff point for THC), as well as on safety implications and legal ramifications.

Maine: Race To Legalize Marijuana Heating Up With Competing Initiatives

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With two citizen referendums competing for the ballot -- either of which would legalize recreational marijuana in Maine -- Democratic state Rep. Diane Russell is introducing a bill in the Legislature which would accomplish the same goal through regulation and taxation.

Rep. Russell said that cannabis legalization is inevitable in Maine, with three marijuana-related bills alreadyu under consideration by lawmakers, reports Jonah Bennett at the Daily Caller.

Russell's bill would reinstate liquor inspectors and put them in charge of marijuana, as well. Marijuana would be regulated similarly to alcohol under her plan.

"It would dedicate tax revenue, significant tax revenue, to school construction so that we can make sure we're building new schools and remodeling old schools so our children have an opportunity to have a solid education," Russell told CBS 13.

There is growing uncertainty in Maine around exactly how cannabis legalization will look in the state, with competing initiatives from the Marijuana Policy Project and Legalize Maine vying for the ballot in 2016.

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

MarijuanaIsSaferThanAlcohol

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.

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.

Michigan: Medical Marijuana Advocates Concerned About Saliva Testing For Drugged Driving

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana advocates are fighting proposed changes to Michigan's driving laws that would allow police to check a driver's saliva for the presence of drugs during a traffic stop.

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee on Thursday heard testimony on a three-bill package of legislation concerning "drugged driving" and make driving under the influence of a controlled substance subject to the same testing as drunk driving, reports Brian Smith at MLive.com.

Michigan law already allows for blood, breath and urine testing for driving impairment. House Bill 53895 would add saliva testing through a mouth swab. The Los Angeles Police Department are already using saliva tests at DUI checkpoints in a pilot program.

The changes would "put a new tool in our toolbox" for dealing with impaired driving, Sgt. Dwayne Gill, legislative liaison for the Michigan State Police, told the House panel. Sgt. Gill claimed the cops wouldn't immediately use the tests until the science behind them was proven.

"It's forward-thinking," Gill claimed. "These tests have not been proven to be reliable in Michigan yet, but we are looking to have pilot testing in the future on some of these tests."

But medical marijuana advocates told legislators they are worried about saliva testing because of questions surrounding the accuracy of the tests.

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).

Illinois: Chicago Crime Commission Asks Governor To Veto Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn should veto medical marijuana legislation approved by the Illinois General Assembly earlier this year -- that is, if you believe the Chicago Crime Commission.

The commission said this week that legalizing medicinal cannabis would "present serious public safety risks to the citizens of the state." Members of the commission apparently haven't bothered to read recent studies showing rates of both fatal automobile crashes and suicides fall in states which have legalized medical marijuana.

Gov. Quinn has said he is "open minded" on medical marijuana, but hasn't committed to sign the legislation.

Crime Commission executive director Joe Ways claimed he amount of medical marijuana patients would be allowed to have would be too high, despite the fact that it is far less than the amount allowed in states such as Washington, Oregon and California.

"Allowing each card holder 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks will provide a surplus of marijuana that will undoubtedly find its way into the wrong hands and have significant law enforcement implications," Ways claimed.

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.

Nevada: Bill Would Remove Part of Marijuana DUI Tests

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

In a refreshing show of common sense, some Nevada lawmakers say that medical marijuana patients shouldn't be punished as if they were impaired when driving, just because they have small amounts of marijuana in their systems.

That idea inspired an intense debate in the Nevada Assembly when Majority Leader William Horne (D-Las Vegas) unveiled AB 351 to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, reports Matt Woolbright of The Associated Press.

"Marijuana is currently the only drug we have a limit where we say, 'You have this much, so you must be impaired,' " Horne told members of the committee. "I think that's unfair."

Drivers with traces of cannabis in their blood are considered impaired under current Nevada law, and are guilty of driving under the influence. The same concept applies to the blood alcohol content of drunken drivers.

But this bill would remove the per se power of marijuana metabolites for medical marijuana patients. Prosecutors would still be able to use the blood test to bolster their case, but more proof would be required to prove the driver was impaired.

"I don't have a problem with the per se limits being there for everybody else," Horne said. "What I am saying is, for a patient, those per se limits should not apply because we don't apply them to any other drug."

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)

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