Category Archives: Drug Policy

The genius behind Washington’s marijuana ballot

Alison Holcomb designed I-502 and the state changed the terms

Alison Holcomb of the ACLU used her genius to write I-502, the 2012 ballot which legalized pot in Washington.  She addressed the public’s biggest concerns about accepting the legalization of marijuana, and wrote the ballot to appeal to non-users.  It was a brilliant tactic.  Soon after legalization, the state disregarded many of those terms.

I-502 had safeguards to prevent stoned driving, public smoking of marijuana, home grows and under-age usage.

Yet, passage of I-502 created many new victims. To a strong extent, the 5-nanogram allowance for THC in drivers is not protecting public health and safety.

Continue reading

SAM Issues Report on the Cole Memo — All Fs

On the four year anniversary of the “Cole Memorandum” – the Obama-era guidelines allowing marijuana legalization in some U.S. states – Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing evidence-based marijuana laws and led by a former Obama-appointed official released a new report demonstrating that states with legal marijuana have failed to meet U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) rules designed to keep federal officials from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in states with legal marijuana. The report, entitled “The Cole Memo: 4 Years Later” is the first comprehensive census of open source information measuring state compliance of the eight rules designed to keep federal officials from interfering in state markets.

The “War on Drugs” has Become a “War for Drugs”

One of the arguments to legalize marijuana use is that the “War on Drugs” failed.  The term “War on Drugs” was adopted by President Nixon nearly 50 years ago, but it was officially dropped in 2009.  Like “War on Poverty,” “War on AIDs,” it represents a concerted effort to get rid of something.  However, it really is a just a euphemism which means different things to different people.

Today we have a “War for Drugs,” in which states think they can legalize marijuana for tax money without considering the other social costs.  These costs include car crashes, suicides, mental illness and crime.  Furthermore, gangs and cartels moved aggressively into the heroin trade after Colorado and Washington legalized pot.   Some states with legalized pot have attracted foreigners who come into areas and buy up properties for illegal marijuana growing.

Anyone who argues that US policy causes the violence of drug gangs and cartels lacks an of understanding of the nature of drugs.

 

“War on Drugs” Rhetoric

The idea that the “war on drugs” is a war on black and Hispanic communities is a simplistic way to explain a complex situation.   The ACLU, which has had an important stake in legalization efforts in Maine, Vermont and Washington uses these arguments to press legalization of marijuana.

Wealthy white drug dealers can often afford more expensive lawyers than minority drug dealers, leading to disparate sentencing.  Black males have been disproportionately jailed for violating drug laws.  Michelle Alexander, who wrote The New Jim Crow, supports legalization of all drugs.  However, she is laments the fact that legalization has benefited the white males who are now making all the profits.

The drug policy – violence theory also demonstrates a poor understanding of the nature of humanity.  Gangs and cartels are money-making paths that bring profits quickly.  Anyone can be lured into the profit motive without thinking of the harm, particularly when young and risky behaviors seem exciting.  There is a certain “high” that comes from evading the law.

Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages
Benicio del Toro in the 2012 film Savages. Top photo is also Benicio del Toro

Criminal businesses will be always be attractive to both the rich and the poor.  Some cartel leaders are well-educated and even rich.  If it were only about income inequality, many would get out of the drug trade sooner.  We need to foster opportunities for the poor, so they don’t see drug dealing as a route out of poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, drug dealers are hungry for power.  They would find other ways to maintain power over people, if legalizing pot truly kept all the profits for government.  Experience has shown that they branch out into other crimes, such as human trafficking and selling heroin and fetanyl.

 When Drug Wars Occur

Drug wars happen when growers and cartels compete to have the strongest, most potent strains of marijuana.   High-THC plants bring higher profits.  The marijuana industry pretends that government is to blame for the greedy, violent wars between drug cartels.

We can see the violence that comes with the competition in the drug trade in the book and movie, Savages of 2012, with Benicio del Toro.  An earlier movie  Blow, in which Johnny Depp played notorious drug dealer George Jung, tries to illicit sympathy for the criminal who was instrumental in bringing the Columbian cocaine trade to the USA.  It is clear that greed and adventure motivated Jung, without concern about the harmful consequences to others.

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow

Marijuana advocates who say “drug wars don’t work,”  play into current anti-government sentiments.  They say anti-pot groups take money from pharmaceutical companies, police unions or the alcohol industry.   These claims are without merit.  In their twisted logic, they say the US has created cartel violence in Mexico. Violence of course has many causes including poverty.   On the other hand, there ‘s evidence that the legalization of pot moved the cartels into other countries of Central America.  The legalization of pot made the cartels promote heroin which is killing people in record numbers today.

The cause of racial problems of the United States and drug violence in Central America shouldn’t be seen as one-dimensional issues.  Opinions about the “War on Drugs” are irrelevant.  The “War for Drugs”  is about getting a higher, more potent version of marijuana and making a big profits.  It’s a cruel trick the ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance play on the public and a bad deal for minorities, because pot is very harmful.

DUI enforcement-Marijuana-decriminalization

Problems Testing for Marijuana DUI

How do we know a driver is marijuana-impaired?

All around the U.S. there are horror stories of passengers being seriously injured or killed by other drivers who are under the influence of marijuana.

Stoners will argue that, “I drive better when I’m high, ” but unfortunately for them science tells us that this is not the case. The National institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study with 19 participants in “the most sophisticated driving simulator of its kind to mirror real-life situations.”    Read about the study on marijuana impact on driving.

Although marijuana had a less dramatic effect than alcohol on drivers the study found it still impairs driving performance.  Researchers found the drug reduced the drivers’ peripheral vision giving them tunnel vision.  Drivers with blood concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, showed increased weaving within the lane, similar to those with 0.08 breath alcohol, the threshold for impaired driving in many states.

Currently there is no federal regulation on the amount of  marijuana allowed to be in one’s system while driving.  Since legalization, both Colorado and Washington have agreed that the base level would be five nanograms.

No standardized marijuana tests exist

How do police officers go about testing for marijuana in a drivers system? Currently there is no standardized test for officers to use in order to determine the marijuana intoxication level of a driver.

THC rapidly leaves the bloodstream so any time delay before testing gives false readings.Marijuana can still impair judgement once it leaves the bloodstream, because the THC can remain in fatty brain tissue, for days or weeks.

States that have decriminalize laws are much tougher to prove marijuana intoxication since the person in question might legally be allowed to possess the drug.

Something needs to change

Within the past few years there have been multiple instances where “professional” drivers have been cited for being stoned on the job. Recently on March 28th, 2017 a school bus driver in Massachusetts was called out by students for smelling like marijuana.

He was arrested on scene but will most likely not face charges since there is no proven way to accurately test for the marijuana in his system.   Laws vary from state to state regarding what kind of background check different drivers have to go through.

For instance, in Pennsylvania school bus drivers are required to submit finger prints to the FBI, provide a urine sample, and complete a background check before being appointed the position.

However in Kansas, it is not required by the state to have a background check performed on a school bus driver, although the option is still available.

In 2013, the first full year after Washington state legalized pot, nearly 25 percent more drivers tested positive for marijuana than before legalization.

Also in Washington State, fatal driving accidents had risen 122% between 2010 & 2014.  Since dispensaries have opened, the number of drivers testing positive for pot jumped by one third.

The first marijuana related death in Washington occurred when a young man went to pass another car on the highway. He crossed over the center line and struck another car head on and then managed to hit another two cars.

The passenger in the car was also killed on scene but the driver he hit head on managed to survive the impact. Later on it was discovered that the deceased driver tested positive for marijuana.

On October 4, 2013 a young adult male riding his motorcycle died after being struck by a stoned driver.  The driver, Caleb Floyd, made an illegal left-hand turn into the cyclist killing him at the scene. Blake Gaston had just left dinner that night with his family and was headed home when he was struck.

At Floyd’s sentencing there was not one dry eye in the room when Mary Gaston, Blake’s mother, was speaking. She had this to say, “I heard the thud, and I knew — I knew immediately that he had been hit, the force of the impact resulted in a horrific death. I know because I was there. I watched my son die.”

Floyd received a 34 month prison sentence with an additional 365 days hanging over his head if he somehow violates his plea agreement with the court or his probation once he is released.

Unfortunately the California Highway Patrol doesn’t keep statistics on traffic accidents attributed to marijuana use. But, according to Prop 64 backer Nate Bradley; who just happens to be a former police officer, the new marijuana initiative will actually help to put protocol into place to test for impairment.

Better testing protocols need to come before legalizing marijuana

California is legalizing first and asking questions later. “The initiative would direct $15 million over five years to the Highway Patrol to determine protocols and best practices for detecting people driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.”  Since Colorado and Washington haven’t found ways to cut out the stoned driving, why would California do any better?

More states across the country are seeming to adopt this relaxed marijuana policy and before you know it, a good majority of drivers on the road will have marijuana in their system.