Dear Governor Scott:
You’ve agreed to support legalization of marijuana only after your concerns are properly addressed. Thank you for that.
I live in Colorado, a state that has legalized marijuana, so I see the effects of legalization and commercialization more than most. I’m confident that you have been bombarded with “facts” and figures from both sides of the argument in an attempt to sway you. I will not add to that pile, other than to acknowledge that I find the arguments against legalization to be far more convincing than those in favor of legalization. I find the data supporting legalization to be faulty, while the data supporting Vermont’s status quo to be more rigorous and compelling.
My expertise is in the field of DUID, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, so I will confine my remarks to that area. Please be aware of the following facts that I doubt any knowledgable person will refute:
- DUID is not all about marijuana. Marijuana is but a component of DUID. An important component, but not as important as poly drug impairment, which is being impaired by multiple drugs, usually including alcohol, marijuana, or both.
- DUID is a serious problem regardless of whether or not marijuana is legalized. But legalization makes it more difficult to implement and enforce effective DUID laws to protect the public.
There is a common call to establish a scientifically-based THC per se limit in blood (or sometimes in oral fluid) that can differentiate an impaired person from one who is not impaired. That is a fool’s errand for the following reasons:
- Neither blood nor oral fluid are impaired by THC. Only the brain is impaired. Unlike with alcohol, levels of THC in blood or oral fluid tell us absolutely nothing about the level of THC in the brain.
- Alcohol is unique among the impairing drugs in that there is a proven correlation between blood alcohol levels and degrees of impairment. That has not been shown for any other drug and it has been proven to be nonexistent for marijuana’s THC.
Victims of alcohol-impaired driving can at least see some closure when guilty drivers are brought to justice, which can be done thanks to alcohol per se laws. Without per se laws, bringing justice to victims is more of a crap shoot. That is why I, as a victim of DUID, have dedicated myself to improving DUID laws.
Colorado, which has the weakest DUID laws in the nation, established a 5 ng/ml THC permissible inference level which appears to be a disaster. Washington established a 5 ng/ml THC per se level which also appears to be a disaster. I say appears, because neither state has bothered to measure the effects of their laws. Nevertheless, we know that the vast majority (perhaps 70%) of cannabinoid-positive drivers arrested on suspicion of DUID test below 5 ng/ml. These drivers cannot be convicted of DUID per se, no matter how many people they killed or maimed. They may be convicted of DUID on an impairment theory, but as mentioned above, that is quite difficult to do and rarely happens.
Results published by Johns Hopkins this year show that THC blood levels of typical users of edible marijuana products never exceeds 2 ng/ml, unless they consume at least five times the normal 10 mg dose.
There is no scientific support for any defined level of THC in blood that either proves a person is impaired, or proves that the person is not impaired.
The only states that are able to deal effectively with drugged drivers are those that have zero-tolerance for impairing drugs in the blood or other bodily fluids of arrested drivers. It has not been shown to be politically possible to implement a zero-tolerance law for drugged driving after legalizing impairing drugs. It’s easy to absolutely prohibit the presence of illegal impairing drugs in the blood of a driver. It’s more difficult to absolutely prohibit the presence of legal impairing drugs in the blood of a driver; no one has done so. Hence the comment above that legalization makes it more difficult to implement and enforce effective DUID laws to protect the public.
Make no mistake about it. If you legalize and commercialize marijuana, DUID levels and the resulting death and mayhem on the highways will increase. If you do as Colorado has done, you can refuse to collect the robust data that will measure this impact, so you can hide behind less convincing pseudo-data that serves to obfuscate the issue, rather than to illuminate it. Some may believe additional deaths and dismemberments are a small price to pay for the freedom to get stoned, and if society as a whole believes that, then so be it. There are certainly more stoners than pot victims, and stoners are noisier than victims, so I can see where that can occur.
But a decent politician will ensure that there are provisions in place to ensure justice for the innocent.