California legalized marijuana without figuring out how to test for and prevent stoned driving. To counter this problem before commercial pot dispensaries open in January, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) officially launched a campaign in San Diego two weeks ago. “High Means DUI” will combat the perception that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe. It will also increase public awareness across the nation and support policies to reduce the prevalence of driving while high.
Xavier Renner died from the butane hash oil fire that rocked Humboldt County the day after California’s vote to legalize. That explosion happened in a Rio Dell garage on November 9, 2016. His friends, Aaron Mohr and Aaron Schisler, also had burns on 60 to 90 percent of their bodies. The landlords and friends working with him have been charged with murder, although Renner made the choice to experiment with making BHO, The charges against the landlords who own the detached garage are extreme.
Advocacy Groups Propose More Stringent Two-Tiered Approach Popular in Europe
The Canadian Government has promised that its C-46 bill to strengthen impaired driving laws will protect Canadians from drug impaired drivers after marijuana’s legalization. But an opposition brief filed today by DUID Victim Voices with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Parliament disagrees. The thoroughly-documented brief says C-46 is fundamentally flawed and threatens to make matters worse for victims of impaired driving. “Proper justice for DUID victims is not possible when perpetrators are not found guilty of driving under the influence and thus sentenced to a lesser crime,” says Ed Wood, founder of DUID Victim Voices.
C-46 seeks to establish per se levels for drugs based upon a belief that the same kind of per se levels that have been successful in dealing with alcohol-impaired driving can also work with drugs. That belief cannot be supported by any scientific studies. In particular, marijuana is so unlike alcohol chemically, biologically and metabolically, that the brief warns it is irrational to use a prescribed per se level for marijuana’s ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
DUID Victim Voices, an advocacy group for the victims of drug impaired driving, proposes that the bill be rewritten to support a tandem per se approach which is based on scientific research. “Adoption of defined drug per se levels that cannot be scientifically supported not only can also prevent victims of impaired driving from seeing justice, it also threatens public credibility and acceptance of the law,” Wood explains.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana of Canada is also supportive of the brief. “We endorse this rejection of Bill C-46. Survey data shows that young Canadians are not cognizant of the risk of driving impaired by marijuana. The country needs a massive public education program, which could take 15 years like the one for drunk driving awareness.” adds Pamela McColl of SAM Canada.
Alcohol per se levels work reasonably well where alcohol is the only impairing substance due to the following facts. Unfortunately, these facts are also unique to alcohol, don’t always apply to other drugs, and don’t apply at all to marijuana’s THC.
Alcohol leaves the body linearly and at a slow and predictable rate, but:
On average, the maximum blood THC level is decreased by 73% from its peak level within 25 minutes of beginning to smoke a joint. The median time between a crash and taking a driver’s blood sample is two hours, so laboratory tests tell us nothing about the blood THC level at the time of the crash.
Levels of alcohol in blood are similar to levels in the brain, but:
Marijuana’s THC is fat-soluble. It is very rapidly absorbed from the blood by highly perfused fatty tissues like the brain, heart, liver and lungs. Consequently, blood levels of THC tell us nothing about the levels of THC in the brain, which is the only place that really matters when trying to evaluate impairment. THC can even be found in the brain when none can be detected in blood.
Blood levels of alcohol correlate very well with measured levels of impairment, but:
Laboratory blood levels of THC do not correlate at all with either brain levels of THC or impairment measurements. A recent American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety report concluded, “A quantitative threshold for per se laws for THC following cannabis use cannot be scientifically supported.”
Because THC is so quickly redistributed from the blood to the brain and other organs, the majority of stoned drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs test below current proposed per se levels and would therefore escape OWI per se prosecution.
Having most stoned drivers escape prosecution may be an acceptable social policy for non-consequential OWI arrests, but many OWI cases involve death or serious bodily injuries. Permitting the majority of those cases to escape prosecution is a miscarriage of justice that should not be tolerated.
Rather than a defined per se limit, DUID Victim Voices suggests that “tandem per se” be used to prove the crime of OWI per se. Using this approach, a person would be guilty of OWI per se under the following sequence of conditions:
The driver was arrested by an officer who had probable cause, based on the driver’s demeanor, behavior and observable impairment to believe that the driver was impaired; and
Proof that the driver had any amount of an impairing substance in his/her blood, oral fluid, or breath.
The tandem per se approach is consistent with the recommendation of the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety. It is similar to two-tier systems in place in Germany, France, Belgium and Finland.
DUID Victim Voices represents the interests of the victims of drugged driving, providing fact-based education and a victim perspective to decision makers and to the general public. Visit the website, duidvictimvoices.org. Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada is a bipartisan alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy.Visit learnaboutsam.ca to learn more.
Marijuana use confessed by driver in Times Square incident
A man in Times Square drove his car for three blocks on the sidewalk killing one young adult and injuring 22 others. The driver was Richard Rojas, a Navy veteran who lived in the Bronx. Rojas confessed to smoking marijuana laced with PCP just prior to the incident.
When he was arrested there was suspicion of either DUI or DWI given his arrest history which is rather extensive. He was arrested just over a week ago for a menacing charge as well as criminal possession of a weapon which consisted of him pulling a holding a knife to the throat of a 45 year old man on May 11.
He was also arrested on 4/23/15 for DWI to which he pleaded guilty to “Operating Motor Vehicle While Impaired by Alcohol.” In 2012 he was arrested for suspicion of battery after he attacked a cab driver, refusing to pay the $44 fare. Rojas was also arrested 8/26/08 for another DWI in Queens.
In 2014 he was, “Other than honorably discharged” from the navy due to his actions.After the crash yesterday he was taken to check for drugs and alcohol in his system and it was reported that PCP, K2 (synthetic marijuana), and marijuana were all found in his system.
Out of the 22 people who were injured, four of those were labeled as “critical” one of those being the deceased’s younger sister. Rojas has been charged with murder, 20 additional counts of attempted murder, along with aggravated vehicular homicide. See CNN article, New York Times Square Driver Charged.
The subject then allegedly drove off before being apprehended outside the Tuscany Casino. She left her child in the car, approached a valet and told him, ‘she ran over some individuals on Las Vegas Boulevard’.” She is accused of killing one person, 32 year old Jessica Valenzuela, and injuring an additional 37 people.
She picked up 71 different charges, most of them being for attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon. After a toxicology report was performed, it was determined that marijuana was in her system but prosecutors said it was unlikely that she would be charged with driving under the influence.
According to Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo, “The amount of marijuana and marijuana metabolite does not appear to be enough to affect her mental state at the time of the crime, she intentionally drove into the crowd.” The 3.5 nanogram per milliliter of marijuana in her blood were above the 2-nanogram limit in Nevada and the 23.6 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana metabolites in her system were above the 5-nanogram state limit.
Needless to say it is rather clear that this woman was seriously impaired and she should not have been driving. During an examination after her arrest it was also reported that, “she appeared to be under the influence of a stimulant.”
Driving stoned is never a good idea as these two stories suggest. It does not matter if you think you are able to drive, the drugs can always have a weird effect on your impulse control and decision making.
Neither of the two drivers were injured in the crashes which just reinforces that regardless of whether you are behind the wheel or not you should always be careful when you are out and about. Marijuana should not be used at all, especially now that we are seeing that its use can cause death. Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families.
Marijuana Drivers Deliberately Aim to Kill?
Above are just a couple of examples that have happened recently.
Another eerily similar incident in Oregon is featured in a recent blog on Poppot.org. A man in Salem Oregon smoked pot and then deliberately mowed down a man in his car, killing him. See the Poppot.org article, Legalization Prioritizes Profits Over Human Life.
Here is a story on Momsstrong.org which describes a marijuana impaired driver deliberately trying to run over a squirrel. Instead, he lost control of the car and killed his best friend. Read The Deadly Consequences of Marijuana Use.