Marijuana and Cannabis News

Cannabis Legalization Measure Could Outlaw Driving By Patients
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Legislation, Medical, News
Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm
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Graham Lawyer Blog
Washington state marijuana advocates who are concerned about a cannabis DUI provision in I-502, a legalization bill backed by ACLU offshoot New Approach Washington, last week got some backing from a local medical doctor.

Dr. Gil Mobley, who runs a clinic catering to medical marijuana patients in Federal Way, a suburb of Seattle, said he recently tested several patients and found they passed cognitive tests even with THC concentrations of up to 47 nanograms per milliliter (47 ng/ml), reports Jonathan Martin at The Seattle Times. Nearly four hours after one patient medicated, they still tested at 6 ng/ml, according to Dr. Mobley.

"I told them they'd be legally unable to drive if this law passes," Dr. Mobley said. "It's philosophically, morally and legally wrong."

I-502, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce and heavily tax state-licensed production and distribution, would set a new standard for driving while high, based on blood tests to detect recently consumed THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).

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Dawnee Dodson/U. District Museum Without Walls
Vivian McPeak: "I cannot, in good conscience, support New Approach Washington"
​The problem is, the measure would codify the limit at 5 ng/ml, a level which doesn't have strong support from either the scientific or medical communities. In fact, there are no convincing studies showing 5 ng/ml is directly connected to driving impairment, and a number of studies which show the opposite.

But with a million-dollar war chest and big-name backers including former federal prosecutor John McKay (who prosecuted self-styled "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery), the initiative appears headed for the ballot.

A lot of people in the cannabis reform and medical marijuana communities say they have major problems with I-502's provisions, chiefly including the DUI provision and a ban on home cultivation. Also a major concern is the fact that the DUI provision would set a zero tolerance limit for people under 21 -- so that they'd be considered "driving under the influence of marijuana" even with 1 ng/ml of THC in their blood.

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Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
Dr. Gil Mobley: "I told them they'd be legally unable to drive if this law passes. It's philosophically, morally and legally wrong."

​Current Washington state law on driving under the influence of marijuana is impairment-based -- that is, if you are visibly impaired, you are DUI. The difference with a bright line at 5 ng/ml means that law enforcement officers -- many of whom have a "thing" about marijuana, and don't like people who use it, even medicinally -- will have a shiny new toy with which to fuck with cannabis users.

"I cannot, in good conscience, support New Approach Washington," said Seattle Hempfest founder Vivian McPeak this week, citing questions about the science behind the DUI cut-off limit, as well as the mechanics of state regulation.

"I've reviewed the study NAW used to pick the 5 nanogram limit and I do not find it convincing," wrote activist Philip Dawdy at 4Evergreen Group. "It's not clear to me at all that 5 nanograms actually measures impairment and there is hardly scientific consensus on what level does measure impairment.

"I realize that the NAW people felt they had to make political compromises in order to make 502 palatable to moderate voters, but to potentially do so on the backs of medical cannabis patients doesn't strike me as a smart strategy," Dawdy said. 

Nora Callahan, who has campaigned for drug law reform since 1997, said she supports regulating legalized marijuana, but said I-502 would be "continuing prohibition."

"We want a law for the people," said Callahan, cofounder of the November Coalition, a legalization advocacy group based in Colville, Washington. "I don't know if this law cuts it.

"But we know there is money behind it," Callahan said.


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