Pubdate: Sun, 11 May 2014
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2014 Dayton Daily News
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers
Page: A11


States All Over the Map As They Try to Assess Intoxication.

WASHINGTON - Josephine Drum says her daughter was "cheated out of
life" when she was killed while driving to work in downtown Seattle in
2012, hit by a man in a Jeep whose blood tested positive for marijuana.

"I feel if you smoke marijuana and you have to smoke it, that you
should not be able to drive under the influence," said Drum, of
Stockton, Calif. "I'm 84 years old. To have lost my daughter is
something hard for me to accept."

With the push to legalize marijuana surging in popularity, states want
to assure the public that roads will be safe. But they face a
perplexing question: How stoned is too stoned to drive?

"The answer is: Pretty damned stoned is not as dangerous as drunk,"
said Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the University of
California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state's top pot 

He said Washington state has a law that's far too strict and could
lead to convictions of sober drivers, with many not even knowing
whether they're abiding by the law.

With no conclusive research, states are all over the map as they try
to assess intoxication by measuring blood levels of THC, the main
ingredient in marijuana.

There's no easy way to do it, with marijuana stored in fat cells and
detectable in blood long after it's smoked or consumed, for days or
weeks, depending on individual tolerance and level of use.

Washington state and Colorado, the only two states to fully legalize
marijuana, have set a limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per
milliliter of blood. In Washington state, legalization proponents
included the language in the ballot initiative approved by voters in

In California, much to Drum's disappointment, lawmakers last week
rejected an even tougher standard. The state's Assembly Committee on
Public Safety voted to kill a bill that would have set the limit at 2
nanograms per milliliter of blood, rejecting the pleas of police officers.

And in Arizona, the state Supreme Court last month struck down part of
the state's zero-tolerance law, saying it could result in convictions
of sober drivers.

Some legalization proponents ridicule the statutes as "sober DUI"

"What we have to understand is that arbitrary rules or zero tolerance
lead to unconstitutional policing," said Diane Goldstein of Tustin,
Calif., a former police lieutenant and a member of Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition, a pro-legalization group that opposes the laws.

While police can use Breathalyzers to easily measure the amount of
alcohol in one's bloodstream, the best way to determine marijuana
intoxication is by examining a blood sample.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court complicated the situation for states
by ruling that police must get a warrant before testing blood for a

"Drawing blood is not a roadside activity for a cop," Kleiman said.
"Drawing blood is a medical procedure and you need a licensed
phlebotomist. So you're not going to be able to do stoneddriving

Ultimately, he said, a mouth swab that uses a driver's saliva to
detect the presence of marijuana may be the answer, if test results
can be used to track impairment.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt