May 15, 2016

New AAA Study Debunks Proposed Michigan Marijuana Driving Bills

May 15, 2016
michigan marijuana

michigan marijuanaThe Associated Press reported on a new study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) which seems to contradict the nature of some bills offered in the Michigan legislature that propose new testing methods to ensnare marijuana users who drive. The study found drugged driving laws which create a threshold limit for THC-blood content, like one proposed by Michigan legislators, are just not scientifically valid.

The AP article leads with the following statement:

“Six states that allow marijuana use legal tests to determine driving while impaired by the drug that have no scientific basis, according to a study by the nation’s largest automobile club that calls for scrapping those laws.”

AAA scientists claim it’s not possible to set a blood-test threshold for THC which reliably determines impairment. ”There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner we do alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research.”

Those six states where these laws are already on the books are Washington State (5 nanogram per ml of blood as a per se limit), Nevada (2 nanograms), Montana (5 nanograms), Ohio (2 nanograms), Pennsylvania (1 nanogram) and Colorado (a reasonable inference law set at 5 nanograms).

Two bills from Michigan House Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) would add Michigan to that list. HB 4357 specifically states a 5 nanogram per ml of blood limit for Michigan drivers. Introduced on March 18, 2015, the bill carries no cosponsors and has never been active since introduction.

Lucido’s second bill is HB 5024, which also has no cosponsors. It would create a governor-appointed panel to conduct a broad review of the scientific literature and from that research, deliver to the House a number of nanograms of THC beyond which a driver’s ability to operate a car is impaired in a criminal way. Introduced in October of 2015 it passed the House by a vote of 107-1 and was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill pre-supposes that a THC nanogram threshold is definable, which the AAA study claims is not. Lucido’s plan forces the scientists to skip the part where they decide IF the number matters, and then evaluating where it should be.

“This is backwards science,” I said in an MLive article. That same writing carried a quote from Mark A. R. Kleiman, a New York University professor. “A law against driving with THC in your bloodstream is not a law you can know you are obeying except by never smoking marijuana or never driving,” he said.

Paul Armentano of national NORML authored an Op-Ed piece published by MLive on May 11 in which he said:

The presence of low levels of THC in blood is an inappropriate and inconsistent indicator of psychomotor impairment. No less than the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration agrees, acknowledging, “€œIt 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.”

The House Fiscal Agency said his program would cost $10 million and take ten years. Lucido told MLive that he wants it done in a single year,

In that same article Lucido proclaimed that his Committee will be the first to discover the “magic number” of nanograms that impair driving, even before the science starts.

“€œSpoiler alert, they’re not going to find it,”€ said Chris Lindsey, Senior Legislative Analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C. The MPP is opposed to per se driving limits.

What about those other six states that studied this issue before deciding on a threshold limit?

“They pulled that number out of their ass,” Rep. Lucido told  the Courthouse News Service.

MLive quoted Rep. Lucido as he discussed the need to have a strong scientific basis before conducting the study.

He believes Michigan can be a pioneer and the first state to set a limit backed by science.

“€œIf we don’€™t get it correct, credibility wise, what’€™s the point?”€ he said.

Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) told The Compassion Chronicles, “Lucido’s bill is to study the question and, if it passes, the information in this study should be included. The study does suggest that Jones’s bill, which starts roadside swabs without any scientific basis, should be shelved until science can establish a defensible threshold for impairment.”

The Jones bill mentioned by Rep. Irwin, SB 207, is tie-barred to a bill by Sen. Casperson, SB 434. Together they would institute a roadside oral swab test for the presence of THC and the standard at which criminality can be determined. Field testing of drugs has been widely assailed as inaccurate, even from industry experts themselves. From the Forensic Resources website:

The director of a lab recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for forensic science excellence has called field drug testing kits “totally useless” due to the possibility of false positives. In laboratory experiments, at least two brands of field testing kits have been shown to produce false positives in tests of Mucinex, chocolate, aspirin, chocolate, and oregano. However, law enforcement agencies continue to employ these kits.

A new report release in April of 2016 showed field test kits for drugs turning up false positives for marijuana in samples of brand-name chocolate, and Tylenol falsely tested positive for cocaine.

Opposition to the Lucido bill is strong. “It is about time that common sense is catching up with science. The recent studies by AAA reflects that there is no correlation between THC levels and psychomotor skills regarding impaired driving. “Bright lined” rules are flawed in nature when it comes to THC levels impairing a person’s ability to drive,” said Bernard Jocuns, Lapeer criminal defense attorney and Chair of the Marijuana Law Section of the State Bar Association.

“The truth is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (aka NHTSA) has been saying for years that there is no per se correlation between THC levels and impaired driving,” Jocuns told The Compassion Chronicles. “There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration: tolerance, form of cannabis ingested and the totality of the circumstances. Although NORML does not condone driving under the influence of marijuana, that does not equate to a person with THC in their system as being impaired.”

Source: The Compassion Chronicles


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