Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My 420th Blog Post: New York Police: THC Urine Testing versus THC Blood Testing

This is my 420th Post so I figured what better time to discuss THC and DWAI drugs.

I live in Ithaca, NY which has it's far share of "head" shops. Stores which cater to the smokers of marijuana. Pipes, bongs, roach clips, and assorted paraphernalia (gotta love that word) to use and enjoy the plant of their choosing. Some offer books on growing techniques and hydroponic set ups all in the name of good gardening.

In my younger days, or should I say as a teen I worked in a head shop in Brooklyn, NY that was located in Kings Plaza. It was a store with multiple vendors all sharing space and an occasional joint. There was a leather smith, a nick-nack area, and a household goods section. Many of the people working there would get high on breaks, maybe they would be considered chronic users. In those days, they were stoners, people who loved to get stoned (like all day). I partook on occasion, I did inhale, and the Led Zeppelin sounded that much better.

Today I defend people charged with use, possession, and abuse (bad use) of marijuana. Whether you have a reason to smoke or not, it is illegal in New York. Moreso, driving while under the influence of drugs of any type is a bad decision. Better to take that cab or call everyone you know. Impaired driving, buzzed driving, stoned driving, and drugged driving can all have fatal consequences.

Which brings me to today's topic, sometimes law enforcement will ask you for a body sample to check for drugs (ie. marijuana). Marijuana is the most commonly used substance after alcohol in upstate NY.

When can they legally request a sample of your breath, blood, urine, and/or salvia to check for THC?

After the lawful stop of a car a request can be made if they think you are driving due to an impairment from pot.  If they smell it in the car, or on your person, or find some on you or in the car or in a handbag in the car or a pipe with resin (residue) it will lead them to think you are driving while impaired by marijuana.

Is urine testing for impairment by drugs (like THC) conclusive and accurate?

When you test someone's Urine you are testing for waste products of a drug's breakdown called metabolites not active substances. Urinalysis can not detect the presence of any ACTIVE THC.
Urine tests are cheap and inaccurate indicators of impairment, yet only 90% of all United States drug testing tests urine. Finding THC metabolites in the urine ONLY means one thing, it only indicates prior THC exposure. The detection time is usually long past the window of impairment.

Is blood testing for impairment by THC conclusive and accurate?

Even if the police test your blood for ACTIVE THC (It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and their performance impairing effects). Impairment by THC is more complicated than just showing or proving a particular level in the blood. Many additional factors need to be taken into consideration. 

Was this a novice user or a chronic user?
What was the level at the time of operation?
How many hours have past since peaked THC levels?
Was this a level that caused impairment in this individual? 

Marijuana use "can" impair driving at certain dosages, and at specific times after smoking.

Marijuana has been proven to impair your ability to drive for up to 3 hours after smoking. The immediate and subsequent affects to users with eaten marijuana (taken in food) are different. 

They affects of cannabis on driving are:

Decreased ability to control a car's handling and performance, increased (delayed) reaction times, impaired ability to estimate time and distance, inability to maintain headway, sleepiness, incoordination of small and large muscles, and impaired sustained vigilance (focus and concentration to task).

If you are charged with DWAID (driving while ability impaired drugs) don't just assume it's all cut and dried. It is more complicated than just did you inhale.

Lawrence Newman, D.C., J.D.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850


Thursday, May 9, 2013

5 Nano grams is the new .08 BAC: Marijuana and Driving While High

Ithaca Pot Lovers, Meet The Pot Map, Remember Pot is Still Illegal Federally, from rolling

Many regular marijuana users have recently applauded states like Washington and Colorado on being progressive in passing liberal pot legislation. Yay! people can now smoke people legally (at least under state law) and /or get a medical certification to smoke for health reasons.

As they say, the other shoe has now fallen, now these same pot loving states have enacted the first marijuana while driving laws. These laws have a specific (per se) amount of the drug that charges DWI/DUI for THC. Pot is the number two most used drug while driving so this was a natural progression of sorts.

5 Nano grams of THC is the new .08 BAC, Is it a lot or a little?

THC reaches high levels (100s of nano grams) in majority of users within one hour of ingestion. The THC in the blood will level off to 2-3 nano grams after another two or three hours passes. But if we have chronic substance users tested, their blood levels are chronically high. Are these chronic users affected the same as novice users? Are they too impaired to drive at these blood levels? Blood testing for specific quantities of THC and then judging impairment based strictly upon a number is fraught with issues. Alcohol and pot are just not the same.

CNN Road Tests Chronic Pot Users vs. Novice Users vs. Baked Users

In February 2013 CNN did a "Smoke and Drive" Road Test (closed course) study with a medical marijuana patient, a chronic user, and a novice user. All three performed well on the road tests, as in safely. Watch the video here to judge the results for yourself:

It was not until they got completely "baked"(their term) that road performance became dangerous. The main point being that the marijuana users could distinguish when they should not drive versus alcohol drinkers whose confidence increases with each drink. Alcohol tends to inflate one's sense of confidence and abilities. Being honest with yourself (when high) and conscious of what you can and can not or should not do is a good thing.

New York State Does Not Have a Specific Amount of THC (or any other drug)

NYS still does not have any quantified drug for DWI except .08 BAC for alcohol. Our DWAI (driving while ability impaired) Drugs is any degree of impairment, so having any amount in your blood, of any named drugs (there are 100s), and a demonstration of impairment is enough proof to convict.

Challenging these cases will rely upon the experts in toxicology, pharmacology, and pharmacokinetics. There is little to no agreement scientifically that any specific amount of a drug can determine a degree or level of impairment.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law

Ithaca, NY 14850


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tioga Lawyer: Ending Court Confusion: Owego Town Court vs. Owego Village Court

Many of the upstate New York cities have two courts. Usually one is called a town Court and the other is called a village Court. Are they really different in terms of legal authority? No. They are based upon the town's geography and history. Each Court has it's own jurisdiction (control and authority). If a crime (violation) occurs in one area it is a village matter, if in another it is a town matter.

In Ithaca, Cornell Campus, straddles both the town of Ithaca and the city of Ithaca geographically. It matters less whether you are arrested by the Cornell Police or the Ithaca City police, what does matter is the specific location you violated (or allegedly violated) New York state law.

Owego Town Court is in Apalachin, New York NOT Owego, New York

I have seen people google the city addresses and confuse their correspondence (responses) by mail and fax to the courts. I have also seen them drive hundreds of miles to the wrong Courthouse. They are easy to mix up. In a few of the places I go, like Candor, New York, they have both the town and village courts together. Both Judges sit next to one another, only feet apart, within the same courthouse.

Within the Town Courts we may also have more than one Judge. We may have a day court, and a night court. A day Judge and a night Judge. Some Courts, like Watkins Glen, used to have Court on Saturdays. Are you thoroughly confused? Which Judge is assigned your case may be a matter of timing or efficiency or luck.

Owego Town Hall, location of Owego Town Court, right off I-17/86

Owego "Village" Court is in downtown Owego, New York.

The key takeaway to all of this is:

1. When you begin your case, call the Court.
2. Find out the specific location of your matter (case).
3. Write down the Judge's name that is assigned to your case file.
4. Write down the specific address, fax, and/or email numbers.
5. Find out the name of the Court clerk for that Judge (there may be two clerks).
6. Keep copies of all records, letters, tickets, and final documents of any matter.

Mistakes can sometimes happen, and you don't want to have your driver's license suspended or revoked because of a mix up. Worse than all of that, if you drive on a suspended license, your next pull over will result in an arrest at roadside for AUO 3rd (aggravated unlicensed operation) of a motor vehicle.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., Esq.

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850