Pubdate: Wed, 31 Aug 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Christopher Cadelago


Opponents of the fall measure to legalize recreational marijuana for 
California adults argued Tuesday that broader marijuana use would 
endanger motorists.

Speaking to The Sacramento Bee editorial board, Doug Villars, 
president of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, 
criticized Proposition 64 for lacking an established standard such as 
what exists for alcohol. It's illegal for those with 0.08 percent or 
more of alcohol in their blood to drive.

"That's a big deterrent, which keeps people from going out at these 
higher levels and driving, which obviously has the effect of 
lessening the amount of traffic accidents in California, lessening 
the amount of injury accidents and lessening the amount of traffic 
fatalities we have on a statewide basis," he said.

Proposition 64 would distribute $15 million to the California Highway 
Patrol over five years to "develop protocols and best practices for 
determining when a person is driving while impaired, including from 
marijuana use."

In a separate meeting with the editorial board, legalization 
supporters said they shared the concerns about pot-impaired drivers 
and had spent months learning about the technology. Retired Redondo 
Beach police Lt. Diane Goldstein pointed to an American Automobile 
Association survey finding that the testing standard used for 
marijuana elsewhere is possibly snaring innocent drivers.

"Their recommendation is enhance law enforcement training in order to 
better detect driving under the influence of drugs," Goldstein said.

She also argued that conditions have become safer on the roads 
despite people driving while high. The in-state mileage death rate, 
measured by every 100 million miles traveled, started at 1.43 in 
1996, when medical marijuana was legalized here, and is now down to 
0.92, Goldstein said.

Still, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, another supporter, added there are 
plans to launch an early round of advertising warning people about 
driving while impaired.

"There will be a lot of money invested in reminding folks," Newsom said.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, an opponent of Proposition 64, has 
repeatedly voiced her concern about impaired drivers, while U.S. Sen. 
Barbara Boxer, who said she's leaning toward supporting legalization, 
has touched on her reservations centering on deadly pot-related crashes.

Villars said he talked with his counterparts in Colorado and 
Washington, who he said experienced a "huge spike" in 
marijuana-related deaths on roadways since legalization. Washington 
drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for marijuana 
jumped 48 percent over one year, while Colorado had a 36 percent 
rise, Villars said.

Both states have a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in 
drivers' blood, though Colorado gives those suspected of driving 
under the influence the chance to present evidence to the contrary at 
their trial.

In California, after making an arrest for suspicion of driving while 
using marijuana, an officer could testify to a driver's impairment 
level, Villars said, "but because you don't have something that 
equates, even scientifically to a 5 nanograms per millileter number - 
it's very subjective."

"DAs in the state of California now don't even want to file DUI 
marijuana cases because of the fact that there is no ... set limit," he added.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom