Chronic City: Taking the High Road -- Attorneys Say DUI Laws Shouldn't Apply To Pot

Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Hey, watch where you're going!
​Remember the first few times you drove high? You knew you were stoned, you knew it might be dangerous to operate a motor vehicle, and you drove like a little old lady.

This tendency of stoners to overcompensate for their impairment is one reason that Marijuana-related car crashes aren't in the headlines every day. With estimates of current Marijuana users in the United States varying between 40 and 100 million, you can bet that if weed really caused wrecks, it'd be a national tragedy on the level of drunk driving.

But you don't see those headlines, and you probably don't have anecdotes about "that time I was so high I couldn't even remember how my car got in the ditch." Seems all those stories have alcohol as a component instead. (That certainly goes for me, with 32 years of accident-free driving on pot. And, yes: There were a few alcohol-related crashes in my teens.)

Now, I'm not recommending you take a few bong rips and then hit the freeway. In fact, it'd probably be best for everyone if you'd stay your stoned ass home on the couch. There's a reason God invented pizza delivery.

San Diego attorneys Lawrence Taylor and Cole Casey, however, are arguing that California's DUI laws shouldn't apply to Marijuana. While many automatically assume that pot affects the ability to safely operate a vehicle, Taylor and Casey said two federal studies do not support that.

Even the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which in its understandable quest for respectability is very cautious around the stoned driving issue, grants: "...emerging scientific research indicates that cannabis actually has far less impact on the psychomotor skills needed for driving than alcohol does, and is seldom a causal factor in automobile accidents."

The attorneys -- who could certainly benefit from the name recognition as "The pot DUI  guys" -- point out that while the California Department of Justice has found that Marijuana impairs driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation's studies contradict this."There are two federal studies that have come to that conclusion that although Marijuana can impact someone's short-term memory, when somebody is concentrating on the task of driving that really there was no measurable impact," Casey told 10News in San Diego.

Another study by the Department of Transportation (DOT) found that "it appears not possible to conclude anything about a driver's impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentration of THC."

Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor, Inc.
DUI Attorney Lawrence Taylor: Stoned does not equal drunk.
​ Taylor, known as the "Dean of DUI Attorneys," points to another more recent report. Titled "Marijuana and Actual Performance" (DOT-HS-808-078), it also found that "THC is not a profoundly impairing drug....It apparently affects controlled information processing in a variety of laboratory tests, but not to the extent which is beyond the individual's ability to control when he is motivated and permitted to do so in driving." Voila!: The Little Old Lady Effect.

So, first of all, according to the DOT, there is no association between Marijuana intoxication and driving impairment. But that's not the biggest problem with detecting THC in bodily fluids.

The glaring weakness of tests which detect THC, as opposed to alcohol sobriety tests, is that Marijuana metabolites stay in the body for at least 30 days -- long after any impairment associated with being "high" is gone. Therefore the mere presence of THC or its metabolites in a blood, urine, hair, or saliva sample is meaningless when it comes to measuring impairment.

Bottom line, according to attorneys Taylor and Casey: (1) Marijuana may not impair driving ability at all, and (2) the blood "evidence" only measures an inactive substance which may have been there for days.
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