No Per Se for Cannabis DUII Says OLCC
Author – Jon Russell
Edited by Maxwell Davis & Noah Persin
Opponents to cannabis legalization had (and still have) plenty of reasons to advocate against legalizing. Most were completely unfounded (in this writer’s opinion) and some were downright silly (banned names in stores where kids can’t go in, really?). However, both sides of the legalization fence agreed that drugged driving could potentially be an issue. The first few states to legalize enacted severe laws; Colorado and Washington cannabis regulations set a per se limit of 5 nanograms of THC (per se means that is the number where you are inherently high and a danger to others) and are some of the strictest so far. To put this into some context, a short, two-second puff every 30 seconds from one joint (0.5 grams of usable flower) yields approximately 22 nanograms of THC. THC can stay in the body for up to 30 days, so medical cannabis patients have received DUIIs without consuming cannabis at all that day.
Thankfully, officials in Oregon have held off following Washington’s lead with a per se law. Drugged driving is covered under Oregon’s DUII laws already and there seemed to be no reason to set unrealistic rules, at least until they had enough time to gather real world statistics. Now, the organization’s most recent study tells us a different tale than we’ve previously heard.
After a detailed review of drugged and drunk driving instances over the last 15 years, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission released their 2015 DUII Legislative Report. This report details the DUII statistics across the state, specifically detailing cannabis related DUII information. At first the report doesn’t bode well for cannabis: teenage drivers testing positive for THC has seen an increase even as alcohol DUIIs among teens has decreased. The report attributes this to a more relaxed opinion towards cannabis in general; teenagers aren’t scared of the plant anymore as they’re being more educated about its uses and potential dangers.
However, as you read further you see the information isn’t so dire. The report states: “The data does not indicate an epidemic of THC-related collisions. The rate of drivers tested by Drug Recognition Experts who are positive for THC intoxication rose between 2013 and 2014, but did not increase following legalization.” Reading further, the report continues on to say, “In Oregon in 2015 there were only three more traffic fatalities involving a driver testing positive for THC compared to 2004. Moreover, the rate of THC-related fatal accidents is also considerably lower than such accidents involving alcohol intoxication. Finally, while overall traffic fatalities and alcohol-related fatalities spiked in 2015, THC-related fatalities did not.”
This supports studies being released across the country. The Washington Post reported in December that a study had been released showing that alcohol-related DUIIs had decreased in states with legal cannabis. A University of Columbia study found an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average when examining places that have enacted medical-marijuana laws. Specific to Oregon, researchers found the rate of traffic fatalities per 100,000 people in Oregon was 20.6 in 1985 and only 8.5 in 2014.
After releasing the study the OLCC recommends not enacting a per se baseline for cannabis related DUIIs. They recommend that more research be performed in two key areas: First, standardized field detection tools must be created and tested that are able to detect recent use and impairment, separate from levels of THC that may be due to chronic but non-recent marijuana use. Second, research must be conducted to isolate the dose-response relationship of THC and impairment. This is a sensible approach to drugged driving laws and it is refreshing to see from the OLCC’s corner.
Editor’s Note: The opinions stated in this article are the writer’s opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of GreenSea Distribution and its constituents.