You can't get drunk if the person next to you is overdoing it with the booze. But what if they were smoking pot? The consequences of breathing their second-hand smoke could lead to your firing or even a DUI.
Cheryl Hale said she doesn't smoke marijuana or use it in another form. The only one who smokes pot is her husband, Edwin Blake. Edwin admits to being a heavy marijuana smoker for his back pain.
"I was fired for testing positive for marijuana even though mine was from second hand smoke," Hale said.
Many companies have a zero tolerance policy for employees who test positive for marijuana. Hale said her company has that policy but there is no clause if the employee claims it's from breathing second-hand pot smoke.
The Problem solvers wanted to find out for ourselves to see how easy it is to test positive from second hand smoke.
After an hour of breathing second hand smoke, I used the oral swab to test my THC level. It registered positive for THC in my system. If I was subject to a random drug test after my exposure to Edwin's smoke, I most likely would have been fired.
But the Problem Solvers wanted to take the experiment one step further. Would it be possible to get a "contact high" and reach the state's new automatic DUI level, just from breathing second hand pot smoke.
Initiative 502 set a per se limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of Tetrahydocannabinol or THC in the blood. Delta 9 THC is the active ingredient that makes people high. Go over 5 nanograms in blood test, you are legally impaired in the eyes of the state. A "per se limit" is legalese for saying a person is "legally impaired".
Most people are familiar with the blood alcohol limit of .08, the per se limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. But the former state toxicologist, Dr. Barry Logan
, said you can't compare the legal impairment level of 5 nanograms of THC for pot to the .08 blood alcohol limit.
"There's no way to equate a blood marijuana level to an equivalent level of impairment with same level of confidence that there is with alcohol," said Logan, who is now the Director of Toxicology and Forensic Science for NMS Labs in Pennsylvania.
That's because there are not as many studies on levels of impairment with marijuana as there are with alcohol.
We enlisted the help of several medical marijuana users. Eight people smoke a variety of fairly intense weed for an hour while I casually breathed their marijuana smoke.
After an hour, the results showed I had a Delta 9 THC level of 1.1 nanograms per milliliter, below the state's legal impairment limit of 5 nanograms.
But there is the twist Washingtonians new to the effects of marijuana should know. THC in the blood falls of dramatically within minutes of the last inhale compared to alcohol which stays in your blood much longer.
"THC levels can fall as much as 60 percent in the first 15 minutes and then by as much as 80 percent in the first 30 minutes after a person stops smoking," Logan said.