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AAA: Driver pot test shown to be invalid

From the Rutland Herald:

A report recently released by the American Automobile Association backs up what Vermont lawmakers heard during the debate over legalizing marijuana: There is no scientific way to prove if someone is under the influence of the drug while driving.

The AAA report looked at the states of Colorado, Washington and Montana, which all have thresholds in place for how much THC can be in someone’s system before they are considered to be under the influence. Those states established a threshold of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The report argues that the five nanograms threshold doesn’t work. After looking into the cases of drivers who were pulled over for DUI and had THC in their systems, AAA says a substantial number of those arrested would be misclassified as impaired and those who are actually impaired would not have been flagged by the test for THC.

The report looked into having thresholds from one nanogram to 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter, but it found no level of THC that would back up what police see while conducting field sobriety tests.

Those who frequently use marijuana can show high levels of THC despite not being impaired while occasional users will have the THC leave their system quickly, according to the report.

The report was put together by the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. That lab also gave the state the same results about not being able to scientifically prove someone is stoned when the state commissioned its own study last year.


Drugged Driving Increases While Drunk Driving Decreases

From: Insurance Journal

The nation’s decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make our roads safer, but use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the highways, creating new safety questions, according to two studies released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One study, the latest version of NHTSA’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since 1973.

But the same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

A one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years “shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

However, Rosekind said, the survey raises “significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” said NHTSA Administr

The reports are consistent with another study released in June by Public Health Reports. This study found that since 1993, the profile of a drugged driver has changed substantially. More drivers are now testing positive for prescription drugs, cannabis, and multiple drugs, and they are more likely to be older than 50.

“While we’ve seen a decrease over the years in motor vehicle fatalities involving people under the influence, the nature of those crashes is changing,” said the Public Health Reports study author, Fernando Wilson, PhD, associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Wilson found that the percentage of drugged drivers with three or more drugs in their system nearly doubled from 1993 to 2010, increasing from 11.5 percent to 21.5 percent.

Learn more about drugged driving and state-by-state impared driving laws at StopDUID.org


NMS Labs Announces Crucial New Tool for Impaired Driving Investigation

NMS Labs, a leading international forensic and clinical reference laboratory, announces the branding of its DUID confirmatory testing results report—ProofPOSITIVE®, An NMS Labs Confirmation Report.

Awareness of the extent of involvement of both therapeutic and abused drugs in impaired driving investigations and fatal crashes continues to grow. The technology to complete the investigation, however, is often lacking, with inadequate testing being performed or lack of understanding of the implications of the drug test findings. NMS Labs has announced the release of its new branded drug confirmation test, ProofPOSITIVE®, to provide a targeted, economical solution to identifying the drugs or combinations of drugs that can account for impairment, and clear interpretive advice provided right on the report. Prepared based on a study of the most common drugs encountered in the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) programs nationwide, ProofPOSITIVE® reinforces NMS Labs commitment to the DRE program, and its need for timely, intelligent, targeted, testing that is also economical.

Since not all tests are created equal, choosing a high-quality laboratory, well informed in the area of DUID testing is essential. NMS Labs ISO-level quality from leaders in forensic laboratories accreditation, ABFT and ASCLD-LAB, and it’s internationally recognized experts in DUID provide confidence to investigators that their tests are in the right hands.

The new test was developed by Dr. Barry Logan, nationally recognized for his leadership and contribution to the field of drug impaired driving. Logan explained, “We’ve added key new compounds to this test to reflect our discovery of the latest trends in drug use in vehicle fatalities and arrests. We expect that this will increase drug detection rates in DUID and vehicular crimes cases by about 10%.” In addition, Logan noted that the ProofPOSITIVE® service adds on testing for more exotic drugs in circumstances where the driver’s impairment cannot be accounted for by the initial screening results. NMS Labs experienced court qualified toxicologists review and sign each report, and provide testimony when required.

“We needed to tell our story better, and ProofPOSITIVE® is simply the right message to resonate with those needing a dependable, quality confirmatory report and interpretive advice on the meaning of results in the court setting,” noted Julie Ruth, Sr. Director of Marketing at NMS Labs

The ProofPOSITIVE® confirmation report reflects NMS Labs alignment with National Safety Council’s recent recommendations for DUID drug testing, providing police with the most relevant targeted approach to DUID testing as well as contributing to the growing momentum around the use of oral fluid as an accepted forensic sample in DUID investigations. Additional details can be found on NMS Labs website.

 

New drug-driving law will affect some prescription medicines

From WebMD:

It is illegal to drive or to attempt to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs. This is because drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs or some prescription medicines, can affect someone’s ability to drive safely. This summer, the government plans to update and clarify the law about ‘drug-driving’. It will state exactly which drugs are affected, and it will be an offence to drive if you have taken more than a specified level of that drug.

Although the list of drugs affected by the law will still mainly contain so-called ‘recreational’ drugs - things like cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy - there are some names on it that people will recognise as medicines. The prescription medicines on the list include methadone, morphine, and benzodiazepines including diazepam and temazepam.

People taking medicines prescribed by their doctor shouldn’t have any difficulty. The new law will state that people who take prescription drugs will have a legal defence (that means it’s not likely they will be prosecuted) as long as:

--they haven’t been taking more than the recommended dose of their medicine, and
--they haven’t gone against the advice about their medicine given in the manufacturer’s information leaflet.

Doctors are already well aware of which prescription drugs can affect people’s ability to drive - usually by making them drowsy. And doctors should make sure people who use these prescription medicines know about how these drugs might affect them.

Posted: 1/28/2014 10:51:00 AM

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Road safety conference targets drug and alcohol

From Health Canal:

Road safety experts are hoping to uncover the next big breakthrough in reducing the road toll at T2013: The 20th International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety conference to be held in Brisbane from August 25-28.

T2013 conference chair and director of CARRS-Q Professor Barry Watson said the conference, which brings together road safety experts from across the world, would tackle one of the major causes of road deaths and injury - drink and drug driving.

Professor Watson said "designer drugs" were the new face of drug abuse across the world.

"Research has shown new designer drugs that mimic drugs such as cannabis and amphetamines are being used at an unprecedented rate and are difficult to detect," he said.

"This is presenting a huge challenge and one that will be a major focus of the conference.

"Being a step ahead in the detection of designer drugs is crucial and we will have guest speakers including Marilyn Huestis from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Barry Logan from the Centre for Forensic Science Research and Education to provide an insight into how we can overcome this challenge."

The ICADTS conference is regarded as the leading international meeting in the field of alcohol, drugs and traffic safety.

Posted: 8/28/2013 10:25:00 AM

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New trend of 'smoking' booze worries drug abuse expert

From cnews (Canada):

A man who appears to be in his early 20s and wearing a backwards baseball cap pours a Budweiser into an empty plastic bottle while sitting on the couch.

Next to the bottle is a bicycle pump with its needle piercing a cork at the end.

He describes himself as "L.A. Beast," and on the video he's uploaded on YouTube -- "Dude Gets Drunk Without Drinking 1 Drop of Alcohol" -- he shows viewers how to vapourize booze.

This emerging trend of "smoking alcohol" -- or Alcohol Without Liquid (AWOL) -- is becoming popular among university and college students who say a quick hit of liquor is more intense than slowly sipping a few beers during a night out.

But a Toronto drug awareness organization is concerned the concentrated vapours could rapidly increase the risk of alcohol poisoning.

"The main concern is because it's new, there's no research to show you how much is too much," said Seth Fletcher, manager of programs for the Council on Drug Abuse.

"You can do it so fast and it's just bypassing your body's natural elimination functions to say, 'We've had too much alcohol.' Your body's natural fight is to throw up to reduce alcohol poisoning. There isn't that check and balance when you're inhaling it."

Posted: 6/10/2013 12:45:00 PM

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New definition of DUI adds tool for law enforcement

From the Trib Total Media:

In 2004, Pennsylvania changed its DUI laws to include the word “drug,” DUID, not just “controlled substances,” which traditionally covered only illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

And the number of DUID arrests has increased ever since.

In Pennsylvania in 2012, there were 50,000 DUI arrests. About 15,000, or 30 percent, of those were DUIDs, according to the Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

“The new law opened the floodgates to successfully prosecute any person impaired on any drug ranging from gasoline, bug and tar remover to designers drugs, prescription drugs,” said George Geisler, director of law enforcement services with the Pennsylvania DUI Association, eastern office in Harrisburg.

“Now, the new war is DUID,” said Cathy Tress, law enforcement liaison with the association.

A drug recognition expert and a police officer, Geisler trains police officers across the commonwealth to recognize the classic signs and symptoms of drug-impaired drivers.

“We examine drivers' eyes, their perception of time and distance, and then blood, pulse, body pressure and other indicators,” he said.

Geisler said, “We are looking at a tremendous switch to prescription drug abuse, over-the-counter drug abuse and of course, the designer drugs.”

Pennsylvania adopted the drug recognition expert program in 2004, the 39th state in the nation to do so, Geisler said.

Posted: 4/2/2013 2:57:00 PM

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Fine-tuning techniques for detecting 'drugged' driving

From newsworks.org:

A Montgomery County company is urging lawmakers to give police officers more tools to spot "drugged" driving.

Bill Anderson, a forensic toxicologist with NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pa., says the legalization of marijuana in some states -- and expanded use of pain medicines nationwide -- has drawn more attention to the hazards of driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.

"I think the biggest change is the awareness of this, not only in drugs of abuse but in prescription items as well," Anderson said.

Many states have trained troopers to recognize signs of drug intoxication. Anderson said police could identify more problem drivers if they used readily available roadside saliva drug tests.

"It corroborates that observation that a stimulant might be involved," Anderson said. "You can see immediately that you have a drug that is most likely present as opposed to a medical condition, for example."

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a representative survey of weekend and nighttime drivers across the nation. About 16 percent of those drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications; 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania visited NMS Labs to tour the facility and discuss ways to prevent drugged driving.

Posted: 3/19/2013 9:16:00 AM

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Court weighs warrantless blood tests in DUI cases

From The Wall Street Journal:

Supreme Court justices showed unease Wednesday about letting police without a search warrant draw a blood sample from an unwilling drunken-driving suspect, but they also expressed sympathy for the urgency faced by officers in such traffic stops.

The justices heard arguments in a hot-button case on constitutional rights from Missouri, where authorities stuck a needle into the arm of handcuffed suspect Tyler McNeely.

The state, backed by the Obama administration, said it shouldn't have to wait for a magistrate's approval because blood-alcohol level diminishes after a person stops drinking. Mr. McNeely's lawyers said his Fourth Amendment protection against "unreasonable searches" was violated. They said 25 states explicitly require warrants for involuntary blood draws, suggesting the safeguard is workable.

Justices looked for middle ground between the two positions, although it wasn't clear if they could find it.

By requiring police to obtain a search warrant, often done through a telephone call to an on-duty magistrate, "you have a second judgment," said Justice Stephen Breyer. "The officer has to talk to somebody, so he's a little more careful. And that's a protection...for others who maybe weren't wobbling."

On the other hand, he continued, many states "want to enforce strict rules against drunk driving," and sometimes "it's not easy to get hold of a magistrate in 15 minutes."

A decision in the case, Missouri v. McNeely, is expected before July.

Posted: 1/10/2013 2:13:00 PM

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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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