HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hotboxing Reaching New Highs
Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jan 2002
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Erin  Fletcher


It may not be at Cheech and Chong-like proportions just yet, but hotboxing 
appears to be reaching new highs in the Cowichan Valley.

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP Const. Brian Nightingale, the detachment's 
Counterattack coordinator, says over the past year the number of people 
issued 24-hour suspensions for drug use has gone up from five per cent of 
total suspensions to 25 per cent.

And the drug of choice - at least the one police can catch easily because 
of the obvious smell - is marijuana.

"We're finding designated drivers would rather smoke a joint than drink," 
said Nightingale. "If we were to legalize marijuana, you would see hoards 
of people moving toward marijuana from alcohol, so they could drive."

Nightingale and his fellow officers have found that teens, usually between 
17 and 19 years old, will go and hotbox (which means smoking a joint in a 
small space without air flow) a car instead of drinking alcohol.

And although the designated driver hasn't physically put the joint to his 
or her lips, they have inhaled the smoke and are therefore intoxicated when 
they get behind the wheel.

Once driving, the intoxicated crew can be deadly.

Whereas alcohol is a depressant, marijuana accellerates an individual's 
perception and throws off their 'internal clock', which drivers use to 
gauge how fast other drivers are going and how much time they have to turn, 
said Nightingale.

Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol usually drive slowly to 
avoid detection because their reaction time has slowed down, he said.

"Stoned drivers are more aggressive than drunk drivers," he said. "With 
marijuana everything speeds up."

Marijuana smoke now is more intoxicating then what was consumed 20 years 
ago. Levels of THC - tetrahydrocannibinol is the physiologically active 
component in marijuana - are now about 39 per cent, while in the past THC 
content was more in the five to 10 per cent range.

Nightingale said one of the reasons people may be choosing marijuana over 
alcohol is because local police don't have roadside equipment to prove a 
stoned driver is under the influence. The only sure way to prove if someone 
is stoned is through a blood test - a procedure that can only be completed 
in a hospital.

Instead, police officers must look for other symptoms like bloodshot, 
watery eyes; an increased pulse rate; and the smell of the drug in the 
vehicle and on their clothing.

If the signs indicate, within reason, that a driver is stoned, police can 
suspend the driver's licence for 24 hours.

And it is up to the suspect to prove their innocence by having a blood 
test. North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP will continue a zero tolerance policy, 
which means any driver - even if they haven't been smoking - caught with 
evidence of marijuana consumption around the vehicle will receive a 
suspension, said Nightingale.

"It is an illegal drug to begin with," he said. "If they allow people to 
smoke in their car then they are going to have to live with the consequences."
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