Sunday, July 3, 2011

California DUI marijuana involves much guessing & speculation, attorneys point out

"A lot of effort has gone into the study of drugged driving and marijuana, because that is the most prevalent drug, but we are not nearly to the point where we are with alcohol. We don't know what level of marijuana impairs a driver," says Jeffrey P. Michael, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's impaired-driving director.

Yet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest claim, purportedly based on random roadside checks, maintains about sixteen percent of all drivers nationwide at night were on various legal and illegal impairing drugs, with about half them high on marijuana.

Every year in California, nearly a thousand deaths and injuries are allegedly caused by drugged drivers (but not specifically marijuana only), according to raw California Highway Patrol information lawyers are told.

Medical marijuana use is now being pointed at.

Fatalities in crashes where drugs (but not specifically marijuana only) were allegedly the primary cause and alcohol was not involved allegedly increased fifty-five percent over ten years ending in 2009.

1/3rd of states permit medical marijuana sales.

Officials try to find scientific research into whether or not there are impairing effects of marijuana. There are many complications including drivers' combinations of other drugs and/or alcohol. There lacks sufficient research with any well-founded conclusions. And that will not change.

There is no national standard on the amount of pot drivers are legally allowed to have in their blood. Nor should there be.

Thirteen states blindly adopted zero-tolerance laws. Thirty-five states including California have no formal standard, trusting only subjective police opinions to guess or determine possible impairment.

Complex medical issues exist as to whether residual low levels of marijuana can impair a driver days after the drug is smoked. A number of state and federal officials are trying to make it impossible for individuals to use marijuana and drive legally for days or weeks afterward.

Marijuana is not nearly as well understood as alcohol, which has been the subject of statistical and medical research for decades, California DUI lawyers point out.

Sarah Kerrigan, a toxicology "expert" at Sam Houston State University in Texas says:
"To have a law that says above a certain level you are impaired is not scientifically supportable."

"A lot of effort has gone into the study of drugged driving and marijuana, because that is the most prevalent drug, but we are not nearly to the point where we are with alcohol," said Jeffrey P. Michael, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's impaired-driving director. "We don't know what level of marijuana impairs a driver."

A $6-million Virginia Beach study is attempting to suggest users of marijuana and other drugs are more likely to crash. Researchers visit collision scenes and request drivers to voluntarily provide samples of their blood. Many drivers say no; some say yes.

These federal vampires subsequently return to the same location, at the same time and on the same day of the week, requesting just 2 random motorists not involved in crashes for blood samples.

This conclusion-oriented idea hopes to draw 7,500 blood samples to show whether drivers with specific blood levels of drugs are more likely to crash than those without the drugs (but not necessarily specifically marijuana only), per John Lacey, a researcher at the nonprofit Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Test subjects in other experiments consume pot and subsequently observed under high-powered scanners or put in advanced driving simulators with presently unknown limitations to attempt to guess how pot affects their brains or one's ability to drive.

Federal scientists speculate one day police may be able to swab saliva from drivers' mouths and determine whether they have an illegal level of marijuana, but that will require years of research.

Right now, cops are in the same position they were with drunk driving in the 1950s, basing arrests on their professional judgment of each driver's behavior and/or vital signs which often includes improperly trained guesswork, insufficient information and opinions based on hunch, suspicion or speculation.

If police believe a driver is high on marijuana, many California DUI cops then administer a lengthy 12-point examination in California. This often includes doing the following: walk a straight line and stand on one leg, estimate the passage of 30 seconds and have pupils, blood pressure and pulse checked.

Chuck Hayes, national coordinator for the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police based in Washington, D.C., maintains the system works well enough to try to identify impaired drivers, and any future (arbitrary) legal limit or medical test would be just another tool rather than a radical change: "We are not concerned about levels or limits. We are concerned with impairment."

In light of (1) NHTSA's statement that "(W)e don't know what level of marijuana impairs a driver" and (2) Toxicology Expert's Sarah Kerrigan statement that "(T)o have a law that says above a certain level you are impaired is not scientifically supportable," there appears to a lack of general scientific acceptance as to any amount of marijuana impairing an individual.

To help try to avoid San Diego & Southern California DUI checkpoints this weekend, visit this free attorney checkpoint alert site.