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Bill Targets Drugged Driving

From The Colorado Observer:

The Senate State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee advanced a bill to include marijuana under the state’s DUI law that currently sets legal limits for driving under the influence of alcohol. The Senators listened to more than six hours of scientific, legal and personal testimony of proponents and opponents.

Senate Bill 117 would extend Colorado’s DUI “per se” limit for alcohol impairment to include marijuana. More than 5 nanograms of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter in blood is the legal threshold for “permissible inference that the defendant was driving under the influence of drugs.”

“The number of accidents has gone down. Yet fatal crashes with THC-impaired drivers have doubled in four years,” said Sen. Steve King (R-Grand Junction), sponsor of SB 117.

King co-sponsored a similar bill last year, but this year’s DUI bill criminalizes possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, such as LSD and heroin. If a driver is suspected of being impaired and tests confirm the presence of a Schedule II controlled substance, such as cocaine, codeine and oxycodone that is considered a permissible inference.

Critics argued that there are conflicting studies, that chronic users may show high THC levels even when they are not impaired, and medical marijuana users may be unjustly charged. Proponents countered that there are sufficient studies and drug-related traffic accidents support the need to address the issue.

And from The Denver Post:

There's disagreement over whether a blood THC test is a fair gauge of whether a driver is impaired, but a Senate panel voted 4-1 to forward the measure to the full chamber.

Pot activists said they agree driving while high should remain illegal. But some vigorously object to blood testing as a measure of impairment. Because marijuana chemicals are stored in the body's fat, levels can build up over time in people who use pot often.

Scientists gave conflicting testimony Monday.

"Nobody in this audience wants to have drugged driving policies, (but) there is disagreement about per se limits in chronic users," said Dr. Paul Bregman, a Colorado physician who recommends marijuana.

However, lawmakers were swayed by conflicting testimony from Cindy Burbach, forensic toxicologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She told lawmakers that the agency is getting more requests from law enforcement for blood THC tests, from 8,600 requests in 2009 to nearly 10,400 last year.

"Five nanograms is more than fair," Burbach told senators. She said the department used a different THC screening procedure before 2009, making comparisons before then impossible.

The 5-nanogram limit still must clear the full Senate, where a similar measure was defeated last year amid bipartisan opposition. Then the measure would head to the Republican House, which approved a similar measure last year.

States that have set a legal limit for marijuana have taken different approaches.

Nevada, which allows marijuana use for medical purposes, and Ohio have a limit of 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter for driving. Pennsylvania has a 5-nanogram limit, but unlike Colorado's proposal, it's a state Health Department guideline, which can be introduced in driving violation cases. Twelve states, including Illinois, Arizona and Rhode Island, have a zero-tolerance policy for driving with any presence of an illegal substance.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, peak THC concentrations are present during the act of smoking and they generally fall to less than 5 nanograms within three hours.

Posted: 2/29/2012 8:52:00 AM

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"Jewelry Cleaner" Drug Concerns

From WDTV.com:

They have names like Bath Salts or Potpourri, but these names are deceiving.  These so called "household items" are used to get high, and now a new "fake drug" is on the market.

This new drug is labeled a "jewelry or glass cleaner", and police say it's a synthetic form of cocaine.  It goes by names like Cosmic Blast or Eight Ballz, and it's used to get high. 
 
Officials say the powdery substance contains a dangerous chemical, that causes your body temperature to rise.  It can make you hallucinate, and can also cause brain damage.
 
Posted: 2/21/2012 10:28:00 AM

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Organic Brown Rice Syrup: Hidden Arsenic Source

From ABC News:

If you're shopping organic and see brown rice syrup listed first among ingredients, you may want to think twice: That product could have high levels of potentially toxic arsenic, Dartmouth researchers reported today.

A team led by environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson found what Jackson called dangerous amounts of arsenic in organic powdered baby formula, intended for toddlers, whose top ingredient was brown rice syrup. That formula contained six times more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the water supply.

Jackson and his colleagues also reported elevated arsenic levels in some brown rice-sweetened cereal bars, energy bars and energy "shots"consumed by endurance athletes, according to a study published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.The results, which do not identify any products by name, follow recent reports about trace levels of arsenic in apple juice and previous reports of arsenic in rice.

The Food and Drug Administration has been sampling and testing a variety of "more conventional" rice products, including rice crackers and rice cereals, "to evaluate what the risk is and what the levels are in these products" said Siobhan DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Depending on what the testing reveals, she said there was "a possibility" that the agency would set a threshold for arsenic levels in rice. The FDA previously set a "level of concern" of 23 parts per billion of arsenic for fruit juices, the only other food to have such a designated level. The EPA standard for arsenic in drinking water is 10 ppb.

Posted: 2/17/2012 12:50:00 PM

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NMS Labs on the Growing Problem of Synthetic Drugs

From the Montgomery News:

With states and municipalities working to ban new forms of legal drugs and recent reports of Demi Moore inhaling “incense” that resulted in her recent hospital visit, scientist Robert Middleberg of NMS Labs in Willow Grove held a press conference hoping to spread the word to parents about these products.

Synthetic marijuana, often called designer drugs K2, Spice or incense, are legal herbal mixtures that are laced with chemical compounds that can cause a “legal high,” which is similar to the effects of smoking marijuana that are caused by substances called cannabinoids.

Middleberg said while the sensation can mimic that of being high, it is dangerous because it can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, hallucinations, paranoia and increased heart rate. In addition, he said these side effects and the high sensation can be exaggerated and last longer.

“Parents have to look out for these. They’re far from safe,” Middleberg said. “A lot of the people that end up in emergency rooms are children and they think they’re getting high or having fun with their friends without understanding the potential danger of using these substances.”

Besides synthetic marijuana, Middleberg said products called bath salts — which are more dangerous and cause effects like methamphetamines — are also popular with children and teenagers looking to have “legal highs.”

Middleberg warns parents to keep an eye out for packages of synthetic marijuana because of how dangerous it can be.

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From The Intelligencer:

Dr. Robert Middleburg, a forensic toxicologist with National Medical Services in Willow Grove, said the two main varieties of synthetic drugs (“bath salts” and synthetic marijuana) can be deadly, citing dangerous hallucinations or delusions that can result from synthetic cannabinoids and the potential for overdose with abuse of bath salts.

As director of NMS labs, which performs toxicology tests for police departments, Middleburg said they are finding these synthetic designer drugs are being used more and more.

In just the first five months of 2011, poison control centers nationwide received more than 2,200 bath salt-related emergency calls, up from 302 calls for all of 2010, according to a Department of Justice report.

To stay ahead of laws prohibiting the use, possession and sale of these drugs, manufacturers frequently alter their chemical formula slightly to keep their product legal. Middleburg said it is a challenge for forensic toxicologists to come up with testing methods that can detect the various metabolized compounds that are in the body after use of synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts. Middleburg said scientists at NMS have developed several different tests as the chemical compounds have changed.

He also said states have written laws vague enough to encompass changes in the synthetic drug formulas. But the challenge there is broadening the ban without affecting compounds that scientists may discover have legitimate uses, he said.

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From The Daily Sentinel:

As the list of synthetic drugs continues to grow each day, workers at Highlands Medical Center and the facility's Occupational Medicine Center want employers to be aware of the dangers and ways to check for them.

"For an employment drug test, many employers check for the basic drugs, like marijuana," said Johnny McCrary, director of Highlands Occupational Medicine Center. "We want employers to be just as aware of the synthetic drugs too."

Dr. Barry Logan, the National Director for Forensics and Toxicology Services at NMS Labs, recently spoke during a synthetic drug awareness seminar held at the Education Center of Highlands Medical Center.

During his discussion, Logan shared the similarities between marijuana and synthetic marijuana, and also bath salts and methamphetamines. While the drugs have many of the same side affects, their chemical makeups differ slightly, making it hard to distinguish on a regular drug test.

"Right now our labs are working to develop drug tests that will catch these synthetic drugs, however, there are so many different variations of them that it's been a difficult task," Logan said.

Toxicology patterns and information from drug to drug changes daily, Logan said.