This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 20, 2011 9:07 PM. The previous post in this blog was In Wisconsin, a splash of cold water in the face. The next post in this blog is The kids aren't blogging. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's the buzz?

In Colorado, they're talking about setting a legal limit for THC in the bloodstream while driving. Here in Oregon, there doesn't appear to be any specific threshold, but driving under the influence of pot is as bad in the eyes of the law as blowing higher than .08 for alcohol.

Is the "legal limit" approach the right one for determining marijuana-induced impairment in a driver? Should "field sobriety tests" be used instead? Are the same tests used in alcohol cases appropriate when pot use is suspected? Is any evidence more damning than an open bag of Doritos on the front passenger seat?

Comments (15)

Once upon a time a PDX cop ... uh, traffic officer found a used pot 'stinky' in my possession as he was arranging my position for a field sobriety test. (I passed as 'sober' grade. ... got back in my car and went.) He examined the smoked-pot evidence first, asked me, "what is this?," and I told him; he gave it back and told me to put it in my car somewhere he couldn't see it, and then come back to him and get my eyeballs examined.

That approach is the right one to determine cases of driver impairment, by pot or otherwise: Just check for sensibility.

[Bonus para.: I'd like to see News accounts replace the word 'drug' with the word 'medicine'. So then any car accident or Under-The-Influence arrest would report "medicines were found in the vehicle" or "the suspect was given a medicines test," whether it was a bottle of aspirin on the car seat, or prescription pills or over-the-counter pills known or unknown, or a baggie of pot, or the 'hard stuff', or maybe even alcohol in an open container -- same News write-up in each case: "There was medicine in possession, involved, or at the scene."

[Because 'medicines' is a word just as ambiguous as the word 'drugs' -- it tells you nothing specific to help you judge the incident's (un)seriousness for yourself (because you're supposed to 'keep going,' pass by, not 'get involved' and start judging for yourself) -- except that 'drugs' has a derogatory slur connotation ('medicines' doesn't), to pre-bias any judgments being made in case you decide to use yours.

[Furthermore, citing people for bad driving on 'medicines' serves (News) to develop our understanding that the brain buzz in pills The Doctor gives us is ten or a hundred times worse 'buzzy' than we get from organic nostrums grown (FREE, no co-pay) in the backyard, when there's a question of judging the degree of a person's damaged sensibility. Some folks need to take Red Pills to endure the Matrix; other folks need to take Blue Pills to stay entranced enjoying it ... to the best of joy-ability. Different medicines for different folks -- be circumspect to judge.]

... is Colorado's 'legal limit' THC an intended consequence of John Denver singing 'Rockie Mountain High'? Whatever 'High' Colorado sets, the Real West States (touching the Pacific Ocean) ought to set theirs double it. Some 'free market competition' to show Denver granola crunchers are wusses.

I remember when we used to monitor the "neighborhood" methadone clinic down on Belmont. The patients used to drive in and out -- a lot of them with Washington plates, in those days. Some seemed quite buzzed as they drove off -- but then again, some seemed impaired when they first pulled up, too.

Cheetos. Cheetos are more damning than Doritos.

Did somebody say "Cheetos"? Mmmmm...

Any marijuana, drug, or alcohol tested at greater than 0.00 should result in immediate suspension of license for 5 years.

The plaid pantry clerk near my house takes it as a mark of pride that he was able to enter "diversion" despite being so drunk that he ended up 2 counties away from his house, crashed into some other random house, and ended up fleeing from the cops in his underwear.

PJB's approach makes no sense, as some people not under the influence are more dangerous than other people who've had a few.

It wouldn't cost that much to put a driving simulator in every cop car. When someone is pulled over, test their driving skills. If they pass, ok, write them a ticket for their temporary lapse in judgement. If they flunk the test, then try to identify the problem (intoxication, distraction, old age, Priusness, etc.), and act accordingly.

In unrelated news, the sales of Fritos™ just doubled in the Denver market.

I agree w/ PJB - that's basically the way it's done in Scandinavia, so it must be the right way.

Serioulsy, allowing people to drive w/ a basically arbitrary blood alcohol level is just an invitation to drive drunk. Same goes for pot.

But I thought it could stay in your system for weeks? And how would they check? Roadside blood tests? Officer Dufus is gonna stick them with a needle?

The problem with "limits" with marijuana is the "half-life" of the substance in the human body. You would test people "positive" who had not smoked that day, but had the days before. This is a particular problem because it is the NON regular smokers who smoke on occasion that we might rightly be concerned about having on the road while they're experiencing their high.

As for the PBJ approach, while I partially sympathize with the impulse, the fact of the matter is that there is no evidence (perhaps because the government doesn't allow the testing) that regular pot smokers are any less safe behind the wheel than, say tobacco smokers, or coffee drinkers. When thinking about how marijuana effects the mind of a regular user, I'd suggest using those experiences as the best comparisons.

Once upon a time a PDX cop ... uh, traffic officer found a used pot 'stinky' in my possession as he was arranging my position for a field sobriety test.

Finally, an explanation.

Hmmm. This discussion is hitting a little too close to home for me.

Was arrested 3 weeks ago in Lake Oswego after leaving a bar. Cause for pullover was a broken headlight. I was well under the legal limit (.05 BAC) and was not pulled over for any erratic/dangerous driving. I stupidly admitted to taking a prescription anti-anxiety "controlled substance" 24 hrs prior while in custody(well past the effective period for the drug) and was cited for DUI: BAC + controlled substance. The problem is the controlled substance will likely show in the urine test even though it was well after its impairment effect. The urine test does not measure the amount of the substance in your system at the time.

According to PBJ I should lose my license for 5 years for essentially leaving the bar with everyone else in suburbia (having a trace amount of alcohol in my system) but having the misfortune of a broken headlight? Sorry, but I'm inclined to disagree. Not sure if DA will pursue but I could be out $6k defending this.

The dirty little secret with strict no tolerance DUI laws is that they are big money makers for the police/drug rehab/towing company/attorney complex. Were the Lake Oswego streets any safer as a result of my arrest?

And if you think I'm exaggerating or that this could never happen to you:


Statistically, I think we're more likely to be endangered by "normal" people who run errands and ferry their kids around while in a Xanax daze (or any number of prescription drugs). It's frustrating to hold simple conversations with these people, and it's downright frightening to watch their reaction times and decisions made behind the wheel. I almost feel safer driving in town after the bars close than a Costco parking lot at 11am. Almost.

Badges?! We don't need no stinkin' badges!

Clicky Web Analytics