blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Crashes and Collisions, Drug-Impaired Driving, Drunk Driving, DUI/DWI/OWI/OWAI, DUID, DWAI, FARS, fatalities, Field Sobriety Tests, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana, NHTSA, Road Safety Research, traffic fatalities, Traffic Safety, Victims of DUI

Happy 4/20, Prepare for DUIs

420

Today, April  20th (4/20 or 420), is marjuana’s high holiday for the eight states and the District of Columbia that now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30+ states that  allow its use for medical purposes.  There is even talk from Democrats about introducing a bill in Washington to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. But today, cannabis is still a controlled illegal substance at the Federal level, it is still illegal to transport cannabis products across state lines, still produces effects on driving that can lead to a DUI or DUID arrest, and it still incredibly difficult to standardize for safety and quality controls. Cannabis is the most phyto-chemically complex plant on the planet. It is an impossible task trying to ensure all plants, even of the same cannabis genotype, have all the same chemical profile.

Some might make the comparison between alcohol prohibition and cannabis, both Federal legislative measures prohibiting the production, importation, transportation and sale of related products on a national level. History has shown that lifting alcohol prohibition has not eliminated the abuse – and resulting consequences – that leads to impaired driving. According to the NHTSA, in 2016 there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dL, the minimum legal limit for DUI nationwide for adults over 21. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System,  the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes testing positive for marijuana rose 88 percent from 2013 to 2015. A Denver Post  analysis of data and coroner briefings report the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana had risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time; state law, however, does not require coroners to test deceased drivers specifically for marijuana use in fatal crashes.

Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to over 30 states by 2017. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Have roads in these states become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization in its various forms? The Post’s findings include:

  • Marijuana is figuring into more fatal crashes overall. In 2013, drivers tested positive for the drug in about 10 percent of all fatal crashes. By 2016, it was 20 percent.
  • More drivers are testing positive for marijuana and nothing else. Of the drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 who tested positive for cannabinoids, more than 52 percent had no alcohol in their system. By 2016, it had grown to 69 percent.
  • The average age of drivers in deadly crashes in 2015 who tested positive for marijuana was nearly 35, with a quarter of them over 40.
  • In 2016, of the 115 drivers in fatal wrecks who tested positive for marijuana use, 71 were found to have Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in their blood, indicating use within hours, according to state data. Of those, 63 percent were over 5 nanograms per milliliter, the state’s limit for driving.

Both alcohol and marijuana can affect a driver’s ability to think and solve problems, coordination, reaction time, judgment, memory and mood. While science has figured out just exactly how alcohol impacts the body’s organs, systems and functions, the same cannot be said of cannabis. Results of field sobriety tests, including blood and urine sampling as well as breathalyzers, can tell if a driver’s blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. No test can tell whether a driver is too high to drive because of smoking or inhaling, popping pills, eating or vaporizing cannabis products. Unlike alcohol, the active ingredients that cause the cannabis high can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks; unlike alcohol, the impairment does not wears off in a matter of hours, and no amount of food intake will change the effects. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and public policy makers concede there’s still too little information about marijuana and how it is detected to understand just how much the drug is affecting traffic fatalities.

blood alcohol concentration - BAC, blood alcohol levels - BAL, cannabis, Drug-Impaired Driving, DUID, Legislative Affairs, marajuana, medical marijuana

Another state where voters might support legalization of marijuana

 

While the cultivation, trafficking, sale, or possession of cannabis products is a crime in Illinois under the state’s Controlled Substances ActIllinois marijuana laws are rather lax. Possession of less than 2.5 grams of cannabis is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine. Illinois also allows the use of medical marijuana for eligible patients as part of a pilot program slated to run through 2018; marijuana possession, use, cultivation, and sale remain federal crimes.

Marijuana laws are subject to rapid change at present. Although the trend has been toward decriminalization and even full legalization in several states, there are some states looking at significant change in legislative attitudes, such as the case in Illinois.

There is a ballot measure in Cook County — the nation’s second-most-populous county, which has more residents than 27 U.S. states — that sends a strong message to state lawmakers about ending cannabis prohibition. Approved by voters with a greater than two-to-one margin, the ballot question reads:

“Shall the State of Illinois legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use by adults 21 and older subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?”

 

Politicians are climbing aboard the cannabis-support bandwagon,  supporting both the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, which is estimated to generate as much as $700 million a year for the state.  Illinois Attorney General Republican nominee Erika Harold suggested officials should begin the process of methodically analyzing and negotiating appropriate safeguards and regulatory frameworks for the legal recreational use of marijuana – the state has already decriminalized medical cannabis. Few are asking voters to consider the ramifications of driving under the influence of marijuana (DUID), especially since the THC in cannabis – the main mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana and the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects – does not have the ability to raise your blood alcohol measurement. This is because THC does not remain in the blood but rather finds its home in the body’s fatty tissues like the brain. While in sufficient quantity, using cannabis products can increase your level of impairment, there is currently no scientific bases to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner blood alcohol concentration determines drunk driving. as used by law enforcement for BAC/BAL.
According to Herb, the website for cannabis news, THC is present in the blood for about 4 to 12 hours post-consumption. If you’re a heavy user, THC might hang out in your bloodstream for up to a few days. Effects, doses, metabolism, body weight, mind state, environment, blood sugar levels,  age, and certain other factors all affect these numbers, and each individual/every situation is unique. Thus, it is a driver’s responsibility to know when to engage in smoking, eating or inhaling cannabis products so that it doesn’t impair their ability to drive safely.
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cannabis, Drug-Impaired Driving, Legislative Affairs, medical marijuana, Recreational marijuana

Nevada’s speedy route from cannabis legalization to sales

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Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin July 1st – And An Ounce Won’t be Cheap!

July 1st is the target date for recreational marijuana to go on sale in Nevada, after votes approved a ballot measure in November to make it legal. This has been the fastest turnaround from the ballot box to retail sales of any of the states that have passed similar legislation. The Nevada Tax Commission approved emergency regulations with stricter labeling and packaging requirements aimed at protecting children by prohibiting edibles being modeled after any brand of product primarily marketed to children or bear likenesses of animals, fruits or cartoon characters. Great news for child advocates, but what about adults? Will there be any warnings about the effects cannabis products have on a driver or the consequences of driving impaired after smoking a joint or two? Driving stoned is still against the law – not even passengers can smoke or consume marijuana in a vehicle under Nevada law. A marijuana DUI could land you a fine of up to $1,000, a suspended license and even jail time.

Edibles like brownies and gummies tend to produce a longer and stronger high than smoked marijuana, and new packaging laws in Nevada will reflect that potency. Every edible will be required to have a label warning consumers that it could take up to two hours to feel the high.

The roll-out of marijuana sales will be greeted with a bumper – a crowded field of players jockeying for their piece of a very lucrative pie. First in line, the Nevada Department of Taxation, imposing a 10% percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. In Clark County, about 32% percent of what consumers will pay will be taxes that include the 15% percent excise tax on cultivation, rolled into the retail price. Applications were accepted in May for businesses wanting to grow, produce and sell recreational marijuana for licenses that will allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis products to adults 21 and older. Distribution licenses are available to liquor wholesalers, medical marijuana companies and operating medical marijuana distribution companies. It will cost businesses $5,000 to apply for a license, plus an additional fee if the company is awarded a license. Additional fees include:

  • $20,000 for retail stores
  • $30,000 for cultivation facilities
  • $10,000 for production facilities
  • $15,000 for testing labs
  • $15,000 for distributors

 

Then there is the cost of the product to the consumer. According to the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol,  when pot sales start on July 1st, the price of an ounce of smokable marijuana will be somewhere in the range of $350 to $450. One ounce of dried marijuana flower produces about 40 to 60 cigarettes.

Only currently licensed and operating medical marijuana establishments in good standing with the state were eligible to apply for retail, production, cultivation and testing licenses. Distribution licenses are available to liquor wholesalers, medical marijuana companies and operating medical marijuana distribution companies. After 18 months, distribution of the product could be open to other distributors.

Here are a few more things to know about launch of recreational marijuana sales in Nevada, courtesy of the Las Vegas Review Journal:

  • Dispensaries must be closed daily from 3 to 6 a.m.
  • Most cities in Nevada will begin sales July 1st. Henderson currently has imposed a 6-month moratorium on recreational marijuana licenses
  • The only difference between medical and recreational marijuana in Nevada will be the price at the sales counter.
  • Medical marijuana prices currently charged in Las Vegas for ⅛ ounce range from about $30 to $60. Several stores estimate recreational costs will be up to $80 for ⅛ ounce, and over $400 for an ounce of higher grade plant.
  • Both tourists and local residents can carry up to an ounce of marijuana and ⅛ ounce of concentrate – the same amount a person is legally able to buy beginning July 1st. However, smoking or consuming marijuana in public, on sidewalks or streets is not permitted, carrying a $600 fine. Marijuana use is banned on all gaming properties in the state. Tourists can’t smoke marijuana in hotel rooms or anywhere on resorts’ grounds.
  • The marijuana industry is entirely cash-based, and credit cards are not accepted.
  • Smoking marijuana will be allowed only in private residences.
  • Complaints about public consumption should be reported to 311 because it is considered a nonviolent crime. Officers will continue to give calls in which there is imminent danger a higher priority.
  • Stores can sell the inventory they have in-stock, but without a licensed distributor, no dispensary will be able to replenish its supply. Dispensary owners fear that they could run out of recreational products in weeks or even days since there is a distribution battle currently in play.