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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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Portable drug test a new addition at New Year's DUI checkpoints

From the Los Angeles Times:

The upcoming New Year’s crackdown on drunken driving will include a new test for many people who are pulled over — an oral swab that checks for marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.

The voluntary swabbing has been used just 50 times this year. But Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer is pushing to use it at more checkpoints and jails as officials try to limit the number of drivers impaired by substances other than alcohol.

“Traditionally, our office has focused on drunken driving cases,” Feuer said at a news conference Friday. “We’re expanding drug collection and aggressively enforcing all impaired-driving laws.”

Individuals arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs must submit to a blood test. But prosecutors said the eight-minute, portable oral fluids test could eventually become a more effective use of resources in drugged-driving cases.

The test screens for cocaine, benzodiazepine (Xanax), methamphetamine, amphetamines, narcotic analgesics, methadone and THC representative of marijuana usage within the past few hours.

Posted: 12/30/2013 9:34:00 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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Woman claims she was fired for inhaling second-hand pot smoke

From KBOI2.com:

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.

Posted: 5/2/2013 11:20:00 AM

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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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Evaluating Marijuana Behind the Wheel

From The Epoch Times:

As states ease up on marijuana possession laws, police, legislators, and a skittish driving public worry how this trend will impact road safety. Cannabis clearly has an influence on driver performance, but there is a wide range of opinions about how long to wait after the last toke before getting behind the wheel.

With more states allowing medical and even recreational cannabis, the federal government has been encouraging safety precautions with tougher restrictions for DUI. To date 14 states have traded their effects-based standard to one that establishes a conviction based on blood test results. A driver impairment law that relies on the presence of a substance is called a per se law.

These per se laws essentially treat cannabis like alcohol, where a blood concentration threshold for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—marijuana’s psychoactive chemical—legally determines inebriation. Most states have a .08 blood alcohol per se law to determine if a person is drunk, and a zero tolerance policy for THC, where any amount is justification enough for a DUI conviction and a suspended license.

Just like with alcohol, drivers who test at or above this per se threshold are considered unfit to drive. The recent measure passed in Washington state sets the bar at the high end of the spectrum—five nanograms of THC per ml of blood.

At first glance the notion seems to make good sense—especially given the last 25 years of success with alcohol per se law enforcement in lessening traffic fatalities. However, experts say a THC blood test will never produce a similar result because of a fundamental difference in pharmacokinetics.

First, a cop with a Breathalyzer can accurately measure blood alcohol, but not THC. While authorities talk of an oral swab test in the works, right now THC requires a blood test, which by law must be administered by a licensed medical professional, who may not be available for several hours after the initial arrest.

The most important difference with alcohol is that blood THC has proven to be an unreliable measure for intoxication. Unlike alcohol, THC levels are highest upon first ingesting the drug, yet the greatest impairment does not come until about 20 minutes later after blood THC levels have plummeted. While marijuana smoke can leave a few nanograms of THC lingering in the system for 24 hours or more, research has shown that driving ability usually returns to normal in just a few hours.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that time rather than THC level is a more accurate gauge for evaluating a safe or unsafe driver. Results from NHTSA’s comprehensive 1993 study (a government trial that put cannabis smokers behind the wheel in both a closed course and in heavy urban traffic) found that driver performance noticeably diminished the first two hours after smoking. Driving skills returned to baseline sobriety about three hours after inhalation, and sometimes even improved.

For those familiar with the prevailing science, strict THC per se laws have been a hard sell, but supporters argue that the science is changing. A study released in this month’s American Association of Clinical Chemistry looks at chronic marijuana users at a deeper level than before.

Lead author Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is at the forefront of this new look at THC blood levels. Dr. Huestis has been studying the effects of marijuana for decades, and her latest report observes a trend demonstrated over three published papers.

While the majority of scientists say the effects of marijuana dissipate relatively quickly, Huestis reports that both THC and impaired performance linger in the brains of daily users for weeks after their last puff. The chronic users Huestis observed were still excreting THC from their tissues even after a month of abstinence, and did not respond as well as the control group in psychomotor and divided attention tasks.

According to Heustis’s conclusions, all regular cannabis consumers—including patients who have demonstrated a medical necessity—would automatically become a traffic risk in the eyes of the law even after weeks of abstinence.

Posted: 3/13/2013 3:26:00 PM

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