A Montana-based company called Gaize has developed a device which can scan the user’s eye and utilize crazy futuristic robot intelligence to detect THC impairment.
According to the company’s founder, Ken Fichtler, American law enforcement agencies have already agreed to use the technology, though he could not specify which ones.
“I’ll preface all of this by saying I am pro cannabis. I’m pro cannabis legalization. I’m doing this because I see a distinct need at the federal level to have some product to detect impairment so we can keep roads safe,” Fichtler said.
The device is akin to a virtual reality headset of sorts that a police officer would hypothetically place on the head of a driver suspected of reefer smoking. It shrouds the suspect in darkness for a few moments before shining a bright light to electronically scan the movement of the suspect’s eyeballs.
“The eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes offer a remarkably clear picture into the mental state of a person. They’re full of involuntary micro-movements and reflex responses that transmit information about someone’s impairment or sobriety,” the Gaize website states.
According to Fichtler, the scan cannot be used as evidence in court, much like a traditional breathalyzer, but police officers can use it in the field if they suspect someone is high so as to take their own bias or out of the equation completely. Gaize cannot yet quantify impairment like a traditional breathalyzer does, but it can essentially indicate if the person is intoxicated enough for their eye to respond to stimulus differently than it normally would.
“You can’t simply measure THC and say, ‘Yeah, okay, this guy’s high because he’s got five nanograms of THC in his body,’ right? It just doesn’t work that way,” Fichtler said. “What we’re doing is actually directly measuring how impairment manifests in the body, which I think is a much more rational, measured and fair path forward.”
Fichtler said the test is based on several different studies which have spanned the last 40 years, including a 350-participant clinical trial Gaize conducted themselves. A cursory search of “how cannabis affects eye movement” does indeed show several peer-reviewed studies on the matter dating back to at least 1979. As with most scientific studies there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation or error but try as I might I could not find much to dispute the science behind this technology. It turns out eyeballs are just dirty little snitches that will sell stoners out at every turn.
“There’s a lot of changes that happen and a lot of them happen at a scale that a human couldn’t necessarily see unless they were looking really close or even using a magnifying glass or something. Our product is sensitive enough that we can detect these really minute changes,” Fichtler said.
Fichtler did make a point of saying Gaize will not be selling the technology arbitrarily to be used for nefarious purposes but if you work a dangerous job or like to get high on your morning commute, you may find yourself staring into the bright light of a Gaize headset soon.
Fichtler was not able to provide High Times with an estimated date that law enforcement agencies might begin to roll out the use of these headsets but for what it’s worth he seemed to speak with the voice of a man who had signed one or more non-disclosure agreements, rather than a man waiting for orders to start coming in.
“It’s being evaluated by some really high profile departments,” Fichtler said. “They haven’t all adopted it yet, but some have. My hope is that within a couple of years, maybe this is sort of standard practice.”
As New York hurtles toward the opening of its new legal recreational marijuana market, the state is apparently “scrambling to develop a way to measure when motorists are driving while under the influence of cannabis since there’s no current standard or valid testing.”
“With the legalization of adult-use cannabis, there are concerns of increased incidences of driving while impaired after cannabis use,” the New York Department of Health said in a proposal, as quoted by the Post.
“Identifying drivers impaired by cannabis use is of critical importance…..However, unlike alcohol, there are currently no evidence-based methods to detect cannabis-impaired driving,” the memo continued.
The news comes amid budding anticipation for the launch of New York’s first regulated adult-use marijuana retailers. According to the Post, New York is expected to award “up to 175 retail licenses to sell marijuana in the coming weeks.”
The state began accepting applications for adult-use dispensary licenses on August 25, with the deadline arriving on September 26. New York officials have said that roughly 500 applications had been submitted, while hundreds of applicants were rejected due to being ineligible.
The first dispensary licenses will be designated for individuals who have previously been convicted of a pot-related offense.
“New York State is making history, launching a first-of-its-kind approach to the cannabis industry that takes a major step forward in righting the wrongs of the past,” Hochul said in her announcement of the policy in March. “The regulations advanced by the Cannabis Control Board today will prioritize local farmers and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and opportunity for communities that have been left out and left behind. I’m proud New York will be a national model for the safe, equitable and inclusive industry we are now building.”
Hochul’s predecessor, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, legalized recreational cannabis in the state when he signed a bill into law in March of 2021. The measure immediately ended the state’s ban on possession, but the regulated cannabis market was slow to get off the ground under Cuomo, who stepped down as governor in August of last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
After taking over, Hochul made it a priority to get the program up and running, something she touted in her interview with the editorial board last week.
“Talk about the rollout being jammed up. When I became governor, nothing had happened. Nothing. It was shut down because there was a battle between the administration and the legislature over who would be the executive director and the chairs of the cannabis review boards,” she said. “So, I was given a lot of credit because within one week, I named people. I got things going. So, when I speak to people about being part of this industry, the first thing they say is ‘thank you.’ Because otherwise we could still be waiting and waiting and waiting, even for the most basic steps to be taken. So we’ve been moving along quickly.”
Pennsylvania medical cannabis patients would receive some protection from being convicted for driving under the influence if a bill making its way through the state legislature is passed and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. The measure, Senate Bill 167, was approved last week by the Senate Transportation Committee with a vote of 13-0.
If approved, the legislation sponsored by state Senator Camera Bartolotta would eliminate Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance policy for THC, which has been used without proof of impairment to penalize drivers who are registered medicinal cannabis patients.
“Senate Bill 167 is critically needed to protect the medical cannabis community as the penalties for a controlled substance significantly escalate,” Bartolotta told the Transportation Committee before last week’s vote.
Pennsylvania has more than 700,000 registered patients who have qualified to use medicinal cannabis since the medical marijuana program launched in 2018. However, the state’s zero-tolerance drug law puts patients at risk, whether they are under the influence of cannabis or not.
“Under current law, medical cannabis patients can be arrested, prosecuted, and convicted – even if they’re not impaired,” said Bartolotta. “SB167 will treat the medical cannabis patient similarly to one using a prescription narcotic by requiring proof that the motorist or patient is impaired and unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.”
Jailed for a Broken Taillightin Pennsylvania
State Senator Wayne Langerholc, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said that under the state’s current DUI legislation, medicinal cannabis patients who are pulled over by police for something as innocuous as a broken taillight could be given a ticket simply because they have a medical marijuana identification card.
“I’ve read through a lot of different law review articles on this and … I think this kind of takes a novel approach, maybe a groundbreaking approach to address this,” Langerholc said.
Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Patrick Nightingale told lawmakers at a legislative hearing held in September that medical cannabis patients are in jeopardy of losing their driver’s license or being put behind bars simply by getting behind the wheel.
“We’re only three years into this [medical marijuana] program and these patients presumably are going to be using medical cannabis for the rest of their lives,” he said. “They’re going to have a number two DUI come up pretty soon and a number three DUI where they are looking at a year incarceration for using medication that the state said is 100% fine to use.”
Bartolotta noted that the state’s zero-tolerance policy is not typical around the country. She said that 33 states, including some that have not legalized access to medical cannabis, require proof of impairment for a DUI conviction. Only 12 states, including Pennsylvania, have zero-tolerance laws for specific substances including THC.
At the committee hearing, Bartolotta emphasized that the legislation does not “give patients a free pass to drive while impaired by medical cannabis. The impaired motorist or patient shall, if convicted, suffer the most serious consequences under our DUI laws.”
Langerholc, a former prosecutor, agreed, noting that “they will be held accountable the same way an individual that was using [cannabis] without any proper prescription would be.”
In a departure from the usual law enforcement stance on legislation to reform cannabis laws, the state police are not opposed to the bill being considered by lawmakers.
“The Pennsylvania State Police remains committed to removing impaired drivers from our commonwealth’s highways to reduce crashes, and the injuries and fatalities that they cause,” Maj. Robert J. Krol Jr., director of the PSP Bureau of Patrol, told the Transportation Committee. “That said, we believe from our review of SB167, that it generally does not have a negative impact on highway safety as it relates to providing an exception for medical marijuana.”
With last week’s approval by the Transportation Committee, the legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The governments of legalized states are doing everything they can to cash in on new cannabis legalization policies, and this includes THC driving laws to collect traffic fines. Now, new research sheds light on the smear campaign that smoking weed leads to more traffic accidents. As it turns out, it’s the opposite, and states with medical cannabis legalization measures, have shown to have less driving accidents and lower insurance rates, according to a new study.
A new study shows how a medical cannabis legalization doesn’t lead to more driving accidents, as shown through insurance premiums. We cover all kinds of stories in the cannabis and psychedelics fields of today. Keep up with industry news by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and get some cool product promotions, along with your news updates. We’ve also got tons of offers for cannabinoid products like HHC-O, Delta-8, Delta-9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. The world of cannabis products is huge, and everyone should buy the products they are most comfortable with using.
Study about cannabis legalization and driving accidents
On June 12th, a study was published called Medical cannabis and automobile accidents: Evidence from auto insurance, in the publication Health Economics. The study investigates cannabis legalization on driving accidents and safety. In order to do this, study investigators researched auto insurance premiums between the years 2014 – 2019, right down to the zip code.
The study results found that in states with a medical cannabis legalization, premiums decreased by an average of $22 per year after the legalization measure passed. This decrease is more substantial in areas close to dispensaries, and is more noticeable in places where drunk driving was more common prior to legalization. According to the authors, “we find premium reductions are larger in states with greater patient enrollment and in states that allow smoking.”
Study investigators estimated “that existing legalization has reduced health expenditures related to auto accidents by almost $820 million per year with the potential for a further $350 million reduction if legalized nationally.” This is quite different from the standard – yet always statistically unsupported line – that driving while high is dangerous.
Their final conclusion? “Our results indicate that the legalization and access to medical cannabis positively impacts auto safety.” They also explain why other comparable research turned up different results of either no difference, or a negative difference. “Other literature on this topic (which mainly finds null or negative results) has been limited by the reliance on data that only involve fatal accidents. We conduct a more comprehensive analysis by focusing on the direct effect on auto insurance prices.”
What does other recent research say?
The study investigators in the auto insurance premiums study make a good point. Not all studies ask the right questions. Like this one, Medical Marijuana Laws and Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana and Alcohol, which examined the number of people caught driving under the influence of cannabis. According to the authors, “We assessed the possible association of MML and individual-level driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC), and also under the influence of alcohol (DUIA).”
The study examined three other cross-sectional studies: The National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey from 1991–1992, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions from 2001–2002, and the NESARC-III from 2012–2013. This included a total number of 118,497 participants, although they were all participants in other studies, and all information comes from other investigations.
The study found that between 1991–1992 to 2012–2013, the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis went up to 1.92% from 1.02%. Higher amounts were found in states with medical marijuana programs. Study authors concluded, “Medical marijuana law enactment in US states appears to have been associated with increased prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis, but not alcohol.”
This is great, but an increase in the amount of antidepressants on the market also logically means an increase in the number of people who will drive with those drugs in their systems, whether its ever tested for or not. Yet no one is worried whether this increase has a negative effect on traffic accidents, since it doesn’t come up as a big threat. Increased rates of driving under the influence of cannabis mean nothing if there isn’t an increase in driving issues, which the first study implies there are not. This study never even asked the question of whether it’s a problem.
In this report by the CDC in 2019, it says that in a four-year-period, the number of people 16-25 willing to admit to driving on weed, went up by 47%, from 2014-2018. This equals a 12 million person increase. To give an idea of how this compares to alcohol, in 2018 20.8 million people claimed to have driven after drinking. While this was used to seemingly raise fear, the agency was not able to provide accident numbers for cannabis.
However, this study published in the publication Addiction, did. Called Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours, it investigated crash fatalities in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. It found there was only a one-per-million rise in road deaths the year after legalization, and that a year after that, the numbers returned to previous levels. As the results weren’t statistically significant to begin with, and didn’t remain, this doesn’t say much for there being an issue with driving while on weed, or for government agencies or publications that say there is, especially when they don’t provide backing for their arguments.
So why are there drugged driving laws for cannabis?
This is a great question. If cannabis isn’t resulting in a greater number of accidents, which can be seen in lowered premiums rather than raised premiums, why does anyone get punished for it? We all understand why drunk drivers get their licenses taken away, and why so much is done to prevent them. They cause real damage. Damage that is so obvious, that we all know about it. We all know someone who died in a drunk driving accident, or a friend of a friend who did.
Very few people have a story about their friend, or a friend of a friend, who died in an accident due to weed. Does this mean it’s impossible? No, not at all, and there should be some actual stories out there. I, personally, can’t drive when stoned, but I seem to be one of the few people I know who has this issue. The thing is, being stoned isn’t the same as being drunk.
Drunk people are known for not being able to consider circumstances or consequences, and therefore making bad decisions. Stoners, not so much. I’m not good at driving stoned, so I don’t do it, because even when stoned, I’m not so blown I can’t make the right decision. Conversely, I have had to have keys taken away from me when drunk, since in that state I indeed thought it was okay to drive. I would never approve of doing that while sober, or stoned.
Yet the fear of drunk drivers is instilled in so many of us, that we desperately want to know that something is being done to help the situation. And for good reason. In the US alone, someone dies from a drunk driving related incident every 50 minutes, with an average of 29 deaths a day. 10,497 people died in 2016 from drunk driving accidents, which accounted for 28% of all road deaths that year. Of the total road deaths for 2016, 1,233 were children, and 17% died due to drunk drivers.
Regardless of legalizations, weed has been a popular drug in the US for a hundred years, and no similar statistics exist on driving under the influence of cannabis. This study from 2010 called The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving, investigated cannabis and alcohol driving incidences, and came to the conclusion “Epidemiological studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents; in contrast, unanimity exists that alcohol use increases crash risk.” That says a lot.
Drugged driving laws
Even if a cannabis legalization doesn’t lead to more driving accidents (or a negligible rise), this hasn’t stopped several states from making specific legislation to try to catch high drivers. Why would they do this with no official information stating an increased danger? My guess is to collect fines.
While most states have some form of drugged driving laws to cover driving while on drugs other than alcohol (not a bad idea considering how many people are on drugs like opioids and Ambien), some specifically target THC, and give blood THC tests.
Washington has a max THC level for drivers, which is five nanograms per milliliter, or higher, of THC in the blood. Both Colorado and Montana uphold the same standard. Nevada is even more intense, and considers drivers to be under the influence if they have two nanograms of THC in their bloodstream, or five nanograms of metabolite. This measurement of THC in the blood is done by looking at nanograms per milliliter of blood.
States like California, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Alaska, Maine, and Arizona make the judgement based on impairment of the driver, and not specific amounts of THC in the system. And states like Massachusetts have zero-tolerance policies for any drugs while driving. Not to beat a dead horse, but plenty of people in that state are driving around with antidepressants in their systems, and antidepressants are psychotropic medications that specifically have effects on neurological activity, and come with all kinds of warnings. Yet once again, no one has an issue with that. Zero-tolerance seems to be zero-tolerance, only when its convenient for lawmakers.
The weirdest part of all this, is that legalizations have created the logical fallacy that no one drove while high before legalizations happened, and that this whole issue only exists because of legalizations. This makes no sense. People have been driving high as long as being high has been a thing. Trying to change the narrative to collect fines, is a pretty low endeavor for any government that does it. Luckily, the research sets the record straight.
For those looking to travel with weed, but are unsure if this is a good idea, check out this guide for a range of tips and smart travel options.
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It can be pretty difficult navigating cannabis DUI and laws in Canada and the US. Thankfully, there are some useful resources we can refer to. Laws around driving high tends to vary a lot. In Canada and the United States, it really depends on which province or state you live in. Thankfully, the United States […]
We’ve all familiar with checkpoints and breathalyzers, even if we never had to deal with one ourselves. And we all know that drinking with a blood alcohol content over .08 is illegal, and leads to a DUI. But what about driving stoned? While driving under the influence can relate to many things, new laws to introduce blood THC content limits are putting a new spin on the standard practice of getting behind the wheel high.
Bet you didn’t think you’d have to worry about having your blood THC content checked? New laws for this make the need to be careful in states where such laws exist. Luckily, you can always enjoy your favorite cannabis products at home. Plus, with the new cannabinoid market, who said it has to be THC? With additions like delta-8 THC, HHC, and THCV, there are tons of ways of experiencing the cannabis plant. Check out our deals for all compounds, and remember to get high responsibly. Remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter for deals on legal cannabis products, as well as all the latest news and industry stories. Also save big on Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!
What is a blood alcohol content limit?
This is a good question, and before getting into blood THC content, it’s best to start here. Blood THC content sounds oddly familiar, yet is new to most. It sounds oddly familiar because of the term ‘blood alcohol content’ which is well known, especially for the driving community. It’s the line between legal driving, and going before a judge. The breathalyzer test given by cops measures the amount of alcohol in the air being breathed out by a suspected drunk driver. Ever get in close to a drunk guy and smell the heavy scent of alcohol coming out of them? Well, this is what a breathalyzer measures.
When a person registers at .08% or above, its considered that they passed the legal limit if 21 or above. For those below 21, the limit is significantly lower, at 0-.02% depending on location. While .08 is a federal mandate, individual states are allowed to institute more restrictive laws. What does the .08% measurement actually mean?
It’s measured in grams per 100ml of blood. Meaning eight grams of alcohol per 10 deciliters of blood = .08%. Because this cut-off line exists, it allows law enforcement the presumption of guilt when a person registers this amount, regardless of actual driving ability. So if a person who is driving okay is stopped at a checkpoint, and does not pass a test, their actual ability to drive will not help them. This isn’t meant to be an argument against measures to stop drunk driving, its just to explain that the limit represents a law that is independent of actual behavior.
What is a blood THC content limit?
While we’re all familiar with the idea of drunk driving, and why it’s illegal (see below for statistics), the reality is that all states have something along the line of a ‘drugged driving’ law as well. Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can cause impairment behind the wheel, many drugs can. So drugged driving laws exist to cover the idea of being impaired on any substance. The difference between a vague ‘drugged driving’ law, and a law with specifics like a .08% limit, is that there isn’t a legal line that differentiates legal from non-legal amounts.
With illicit drugs, its obviously illegal to be caught possessing and using them, however, they can also incur a driving violation if it’s decided that the person was impaired while driving on them. Did you get the language? If it’s ‘decided’ by law enforcement. As in, in order to make a charge like that stick, impairment must be proven somehow. Given how life tends to work, this can create precarious situations as cops have the ability to get a person arrested based on their opinion of the situation, without something to point at to show an actual problem. Obviously in cases where there is an actual problem – a person very much compromised based on whatever drug, this is okay. However, particularly for legal compounds, or situations where cops might feel the need to go beyond their jurisdiction, this can create dicey situations.
And this is where testing for blood THC content comes in. Perhaps its been hard for law enforcement to make such charges stick against potheads, well with the institution of legal limits, the same presumption of guilt is allowed for cannabis, regardless of driving ability. I want to take a second here to state that I’m a cannabis user, and have been hanging out and driving in cars with other users for half my life. I’d never get in a car knowingly with someone who’s been drinking, but I don’t bat an eye at driving with a stoner.
So basically, a blood THC content is the measure of THC in the blood. Unlike a breathalyzer test, this can’t be picked up by someone breathing out, and requires a blood test. In the US, this is generally measured in nanograms per milliliter of blood, but only done on a state level as cannabis is federally illegal. Different legalized states have set their own limits, and some go by the idea of impairment only, without a limit to test for.
Which states test for blood THC content?
Right now there are 18 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, which means these states can institute limits if they choose to separate legal use with driving, from illegal use with driving. Of the 18 states that are legal, the following have laws for blood THC content limits.
Washington uses a maximum THC level for driving, and set the amount at five nanograms per milliliter or higher of THC in the blood stream. This same level is used by Colorado and Montana. Nevada is the one state going further than this right now. In this state, it’s considered under the influence if a driver’s blood test shows two nanograms of THC and five nanograms of metabolite when driving.
Vermont has not opened its market yet, but holds that any amount of illicit substance found in the system constitutes the ability for arrest when driving. It was not confirmed how this zero-tolerance policy effects a non-illicit substance like cannabis. Massachusetts also has a zero-tolerance policy, making any amount of cannabis found in the system of a driver enough for arrest.
New Jersey is still working on its legislation, as legalization was in the last year, and the laws aren’t concrete yet. It has been argued repeatedly to keep out restrictions for maximum THC content, although whether this relates strictly to products, or to driving as well, is not clear.
New York, New Mexico, Virginia, and Connecticut are also newly legalized states where legislation has not been hammered out. We’ll have to wait and see what restrictions these states choose to institute when their laws are made clearer. States that go by judging impairment as the deciding factor of law enforcement, include: California, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Alaska, Maine, Arizona, and the states that still need to present legislation: New York, New Mexico, Virginia, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Statistics for driving while under the influence of cannabis
Like I said before, I won’t get in a car with a drunk driver, but I don’t mind someone that just smoked up getting behind the wheel. And that’s because through decades of time, it has consistently been reinforced by life that drinking really can cause immense dangers, and cannabis, for the most part, really doesn’t. At least in my experience. Here are some basic stats to show the picture in the US.
According to the CDC, in terms of alcohol in the US, approximately every 50 minutes, a drunk-driving related death is occurring. 29 happen every day. In 2016, this equaled 10,497 deaths related to drivers impaired by alcohol, making up about 28% of all deaths on the road. 1,233 of the total deaths in 2016 were children, with 17% of those deaths related to alcohol impairment.
When it comes to accidents involving cannabis, there are virtually no actual statistics, and certainly none put out by government agencies. In a study from 2010 (before the cannabis market really exploded) called The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving, researchers concluded that “Epidemiological studies have been inconclusive regarding whether cannabis use causes an increased risk of accidents; in contrast, unanimity exists that alcohol use increases crash risk.” They went on to say
“The risk from driving under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone. Future research should focus on resolving contradictions posed by previous studies, and patients who smoke cannabis should be counseled to wait several hours before driving, and avoid combining the two drugs.” Of course, the problem with the last part, is that it then involves alcohol, which we already know causes many issues.
While the government provides no information, there are stories out about an increase in accidents related to cannabis use since legalizations. Perhaps this has more to do with testing for cannabis since legalizations occurred, since expecting that the actual smoking community changed so drastically by a legalization, is a little silly. Such headlines create the logical fallacy that the legalizations started the industry, and that this wouldn’t have been going on prior, which is incredibly mistaken. Logically, people were always smoking and driving, making these claims nonsensical, and sounding very much like fearmongering, especially when official numbers somehow can’t be provided.
In fact, in 2019, a USA Today article, citing research on crash fatalities in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon from 2019, found as little as a one per million people increase in fatalities after legalization. But then the numbers returned to normal the following year. Considering these aren’t even statistically significant results, and they didn’t hold, this backs up that there shouldn’t be any change due to legalizations, as smoking and driving habits would have been unlikely to be affected by legal measures.
Let’s be honest, cannabis and driving aren’t even remotely the issue that alcohol and driving is, and this shows up in all statistics. And so long as opiates are being doled out, and allergy medicines like Benadryl are available, making cannabis out to be the demon of driving, is ridiculous at best. Does this mean a person shouldn’t be careful when smoking and driving? Of course they should! But that’s always the case.
Alcohol will always be more dangerous, no matter how much information is distorted to try to sway opinions. My bet is these limits are being put in place to force fines, and that there isn’t any worry – and certainly not based on statistics – that would indicate this is really a problem worth responding to. Maybe further research will say otherwise. For now, best to be careful when driving with weed.
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Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering legislation that would aim to protect medical cannabis patients in the state from DUI penalties.
On Tuesday, a pair of state House representatives, Democrat Chris Rabb and Republican Todd Polinchock, announced that they had introduced a bill that would “ensure the rights of the more than 500,000 medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, protecting them from DUI penalties.”
“I believe that people with a medical need for cannabis, who have acted courageously to seek help for their medical condition and have been granted use of medical cannabis, should be protected from DUI penalties for their legal medical cannabis use,” said Rabb, who represents a district in Philadelphia. “I know I’m not the only lawmaker in the General Assembly who has been contacted by constituents concerned that their responsible use of medical cannabis may expose them to targeting by law enforcement when they drive.”
In a press release, Rabb noted that THC often remains in an individual’s system for weeks after use, potentially complicating the enforcement of impaired driving laws when a legal cannabis consumer is behind the wheel.
“A medical cannabis user can take a miniscule amount of medicine for their ailment and weeks later, with traces of cannabis still in their system, be subject to arrest on a DUI charge if pulled over—not because they’ve driven impaired, but because our state laws haven’t caught up with the science,” Rabb said.
“And, if you think you don’t know someone who falls into this category—a person who has been prescribed medical cannabis and who drives and is fearful of the potential DUI charge they could face—you’re wrong. I am a card-carrying medical cannabis patient, and I drive regularly, including in and around Philadelphia and to Harrisburg conducting the people’s business.”
The legislation would “not extend to any illegal cannabis use,” and would only apply to “approved patients with a noncommercial driver’s license who use medicinal cannabis legally and are not impaired.”
Polinchock said it would simply place “medical cannabis on the same level as other prescription pain relievers.”
“It helps many Pennsylvanians, including many of our seniors. It’s time to remove the stigma and treat this drug as we do others,” he said.
For Rabb, the bill is personal, noting that he, too, is a medical cannabis user.
“Anyone, like me, who regularly uses cannabis for symptom relief, will always be breaking the law when we get behind the wheel given that traces of THC can remain in our system for up to a month,” Rabb said. “As the law is written today, I could go to jail for six months for driving four weeks after swallowing a few drops of cannabis tincture sold at a dispensary licensed by the very same government that cashes in on tax revenue from the sale of medical cannabis. That’s perverse. And it’s also easily corrected. Our legislation will set things right.”
On the other side of Pennsylvania’s general assembly, a separate bill aims to remedy the same problem.
State Senator Camera Bartolotta, a Republican, has her own bill that would “change that by requiring proof of impairment for someone to be charged with and convicted of DUI, not just a THC level,” local television station WFMZ reported.
At a hearing on Tuesday, a medical cannabis patient named Jesse Roedts testified in support of Bartolotta’s legislation, recounting a time that he was charged with DUI despite being a medical marijuana patient and showing no signs of impairment.
“When the medical cannabis laws were passed in Pennsylvania, a critical detail was missed,” said Roedts, as quoted by WFMZ. “That detail was DUI reform for legal card holders. The state legalized medical cannabis and then turned hundreds of thousands of patients into potential criminals.”
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