|Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on HDNET “World Report”: DWHigh: Medical Marijuana and Driving
With the number of medical marijuana patients rising, and with 16 states now allowing medicinal cannabis, advocates are fighting against attempts to regulate the amount of THC that can be in your blood while driving.
HDNet “World Report,” in an episode which will debut Tuesday night, May 17, will examine driving while under the influence of medical marijuana.
In Colorado, which has a growing medical marijuana community, the question is, should there be a limit? The Legislature recently defeated a measure which would have limited blood THC levels at five nanograms per millilter (ng/ml). Advocates said the measure was far too strict, and would, in effect, have banned medical marijuana patients from legally driving.
“World Report” puts legal medical marijuana users behind the wheel of a driving simulator and watched them navigate a course, first while sober, then after consuming pot. (Of course, under Colorado’s recently proposed — and unrealistically low — five-nanogram limit, all of the patients would likely be considered “high” even while completely sober, thus making moot the question of impairment.)
“I am very concerned that because there is this sense of entitlement with medical marijuana that when the cops come to the car people will immediately say, ‘Oh you smell marijuana because I’m a medical marijuana patient,’ ” said Sean McCallister, a lawyer in Colorado who is “working to establish a tough new standard for driving while high by setting a limit on blood THC levels.
But what McCallister and most any other advocate of “tough new standards” on blood THC levels won’t tell you, is that blood THC levels do not measure impairment at all — they simply measure the presence of THC, which can be found in the blood long after intoxication has passed.
What that means for medical marijuana patients — as shown by the recent failure of a completely sober William Breathes, the pot critic for Denver Westword, to pass a blood test — will be effectively banned from driving at all, since their blood THC levels would never dip down into what is considered “legal” territory, even when unimpaired.
This is because THC and its metabolites can be detectable for days, even weeks, after the last ingestion; their presence does not indicate impairment at all.
According to Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), setting a legal limit on how much THC a person can have in their blood while driving is a mistake, because the jury is still out on the science of what constitutes being “too high to drive.”
In any event, even with the very anecdotal nature of World Report’s “investigation,” some drivers did just fine after smoking and eating marijuana; the others may just be piss-poor drivers, even while sober.
Certainly, the spectacle of some lame-ass cop quizzing a stoned driver about “what color was the roof of that barn” — and then feeling enormously validated when the driver doesn’t know or care — has some sick entertainment value. But what, exactly, does that tell us about marijuana and driving impairment? Not a fuck of a lot.
The numbers, for those who prefer science over ratings-boosting sensationalism, indicate that marijuana doesn’t, in fact, make you wreck your car. Subjects show almost identical driving skills just before and just after smoking marijuana, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
Additionally, experienced marijuana consumers show virtually no changes in cognitive performance after using cannabis, according to clinical tria data published online last year in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.
What: “World Report — DW High: Medical Marijuana and Driving premiers on HDNet
When: Tuesday, May 17, 9 p.m. ET with an encore at 12 a.m. ET May 18
Where: HDNet Cable Network (www.hd.net)