Pubdate: Tue, 22 Feb 2011
Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu)
Copyright: 2011 Back Bay Publishing, Inc.


In an effort to control marijuana use, Colorado legislators are 
proposing a DUI blood-content level to control high drivers. Because 
medical-marijuana use has increased in the state, lawmakers want to 
ensure users aren't taking advantage of the registry despite the 
opposition which argues that this is just another step toward 
legalization in its similarity to alcohol guidelines.

If the rules are implemented, high drivers will receive DUIs if they 
test positive for five or more nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol 
(THC), the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana, within two 
hours of being pulled over. In other words, users would have to be 
placed in some sort of limbo while officers determined their level of 
cannabinoid intoxication. This could be tricky for police departments 
and jailhouses employees who might not be trained in understanding 
more long-term marijuana effects, which would result in a waste of 
time and resources.

In terms of behavior, marijuana use is more difficult to pinpoint 
than alcohol use. The police have developed a fairly accurate system 
for pinpointing drunk drivers, i.e. they swerve and exhibit signs of 
absent-mindedness. In 2010, an Israeli lab conducted a simulated 
experiment comparing drunk and drivers on marijuana. The results 
showed that stoned drivers tend to drive slower and more cautiously 
"because they have a different sense of time" while drunk drivers, of 
course, exhibited less caution considering their lack of 
self-awareness. Both drivers are dangerous but there's no denying the 
high driver is less of an exhibitionist.

As a result, the police could very well be prone to pulling over more 
people for minute reasons. An elderly driver, for example, could 
mirror a person who has smoked a joint 10 minutes before getting 
behind the wheel. With so many factors to consider, Colorado's law 
has a strong possibly of unnecessarily increasing police involvement 
on the road. It's a clear economic illustration of wasted investment, 
unless law enforcement officials can come up with a more 
comprehensible picture of how a high driver behaves and if they are 
really dangerous.

Ultimately, the progressive Colorado lawmakers have a good idea in 
principle. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, there 
should be an effort made to counterbalance those who take advantage 
of the system. But a substance such as marijuana is still shrouded in 
mystery and without a concentrated attempt by officials to further 
understand it, a law of this degree will have no viable use.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D