Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Are Marijuana Per Se Laws Coming?

Is Marijuana per se coming to New York?

We are at a cross roads with marijuana in this country. Cannabis use is trending nationally both medically and recreationally. Laws are changing for it's use but we have multiple standards that define when and if someone can drive. We have active delta 9 THC laws, inactive metabolite THC laws, and then we have "per se" laws.

We only have one drug nationally that is defined with a number and that is alcohol at .08 BAC. The only reason all 50 states adopted that number was by the coercion of the government. If they wanted funds for their highways then they needed to implement .08 BAC.

Are we going to see a marijuana per se law nationally?
Can cannabis be quantified by a per se law?
Is it fair to lump marijuana impaired driving with drunk driving?

Marijuana and Alcohol Are Vastly Different

Trying to lump a water soluble drug with a fat soluble drug is like comparing an apple with a steak. These two drugs are metabolized differently. One follows first order kinetics and one does not. In other words, alcohol follows a linear pattern, very simply more alcohol more impairment, less alcohol less impairment. Alcohol is eliminated in a linear fashion as well over time. With alcohol most of the process is very calculated and certain.

Marijuana is not eliminated in a straight line. It fluctuates in the body and it stays in the system a long time. Marijuana has an extremely long half-life, it is discoverable in your system in some cases 30 days after last use.

Marijuana Per Se Laws Would Not Be Fair

Sometimes we have a lot of THC in the body and very little impairment. Sometimes we have a little THC in the body and have lots of impairment. Impairment by a drug is relative to many factors. Your tolerance of the drug? Your regular or irregular use of the drug? How much you intake is relative to your body.

Marijuana Per Se Laws are Dangerous to Our Freedom

Per se marijuana laws set a driving limit of a drug while driving a car. If you have detectable amounts of marijuana (THC active or THC metabolite) above a set threshold then you may be guilty even WITHOUT impairment. Yes you heard that right under these laws, drivers are guilty of per se marijuana even absent evidence of impairment (mentally or physically).

So someone could be pulled over for  merely speeding or going through a red light and then be automatically guilty of marijuana per se if they have THC in their system. If you are unfortunate to be driving in a THC metabolite state then that THC may have been in your system from weeks prior.

One of the first states to have recreational marijuana also has a per se law. In Colorado, the presence of active THC in blood above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.” This is far better than Pennsylvania where even THC metabolites (the waste products of active THC) will find you guilty of marijuana per se WITHOUT any impairment.

American Automobile Automobile (AAA) Report States NO Science in Per Se Marijuana Law 

An AAA report concluded, “quantitative threshold for per se laws for THC following cannabis use cannot be scientifically reported.” The body breaks down THC differently than alcohol so a per se law is inherently unfair. Often THC lingers in the body with little to no effect. THC in the blood especially as a metabolite is a meaningless number.

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) concurs with the AAA report 

“It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.” In other words THC in the blood is unlike alcohol in the blood in predicting impaired behavior patterns. 

We call laws that state a specific per se amount of THC finds you guilty just based upon that fact as Strict Liability laws. I believe just like the criminalization of cannabis decades ago congress will enact a marijuana per se law. It will be horribly abused strict liability law and many will suffer. It will be seen as way to combat impaired driving but the truth will be lost. 

Until People Get Woke About Cannabis We are Living in Dark Times

Are we ready as a country to find people guilty of driving with a drug in their system? Are we ready to impose harsh and severe punishments for the medical use of cannabis and driving without impairment? This is a slippery slope that we are traveling upon. So many Americans take drugs daily for chronic illness, are we to punish them for just their mere use?