UPDATE 4/29/2014 – AB2500 FAILED TO PASS THE ASSEMBLY PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE. Thanks to all the NORML members and supporters who wrote in about this bill.
UPDATE 4/23/14 – Assembly Bill 2500 has been amended to impose ‘per se’ criminal penalties to individuals who drive with trace levels (2ng/ml or above) of THC or other controlled substances in their blood — regardless of whether he/she is behaviorally impaired. NORML and California NORML opposes the imposition of this legislation.
BACKGROUND: From the March Edition of Cal NORML Reports. Join today to support Cal NORML’s efforts in Sacramento and receive our newsletter.
SACRAMENTO. For the second year in a row, a “zero-tolerance” drug DUI bill has been introduced to the legislature. The bill, AB 2500 by Assembly Member Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), would make it illegal to drive a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of THC or any other controlled substance in one’s blood.
Because THC remains detectable in the bloodstream for hours or days after use, well after deleterious effects have faded, the bill would make marijuana users liable for DUI regardless of whether they were actually impaired at the time.
Last year, the legislature rejected a similar bill by Sen. Lou Correa, an habitual sponsor of anti-marijuana bills who is also co-sponsoring AB 2500. As presently written, AB 2500 goes beyond marijuana, outlawing the presence in blood of legal, prescription drugs such as opiates, stimulants, or tranquilizers. As with marijuana, there exists no scientific basis for a “zero-tolerance” DUI standard for other drugs.
NORML has been a leading opponent of zero tolerance and per se DUI laws, providing expert testimony and evidence to legislators and courts. Subscribers to NORML’s e-lists generated over 3,500 e-mails in opposition to last year’s DUI bill. The scientific case against zero-
tolerance and per se DUI laws is laid out in “Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific Review” by NORML deputy director Paul Armentano, and California NORML’s Guide to Drug Testing.
The government’s own experts have conceded that chemical tests are incapable of determining impairment for marijuana, unlike the alcohol breathalyzer. Fortunately, studies agree that marijuana by itself is a much lesser road hazard than alcohol and other drugs. While some studies have detected a higher risk of accidents with marijuana use, others have not. In general, the risks of marijuana use appear comparable to those of driving with legal blood levels of alcohol.
Public fears over marijuana DUIs have been stoked by recent news reports of an increase in fatal accidents in which marijuana is detected in drivers. This appears to reflect a nationwide increase in marijuana use, not an increase in accidents. A random survey of 1,300 California nighttime drivers found that fully 7.4% had THC in their systems, while 3.7% had medical marijuana recommendations. Yet even while marijuana usage has been increasing over the past decade, accident rates and DUI arrests in California have been declining. Some experts speculate that this may be because drivers are substituting marijuana for alcohol. In any case, the evidence seems clear that marijuana isn’t causing an epidemic of accidents.
DUIs For Even a Trace of Weed Being Considered in California LA Weekly, April 4, 2014