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