Friday, December 18, 2015

Stoned or not stoned that is the question?

Good Day Readers:

Given the sunny ways Liberals and saviours of the middle class are on the public record as legalizing marijuana, they'd better get their collective asses in gear to accurately measure impairment otherwise there may be more cases such as the one documented below especially if it is not or unsuccessfully appealed. But help may be on the way in The Kingdom of Justin The Good. Read on .....

Coming soon to a Manitoba Liquor Mart near you the "double bud six pack" - 6 Budweiser beer and 6 joints? How would you like to receive that in time for next Christmas?

Clare L. Pieuk
Driving when high not enough for conviction, judge rules

Mike McIntyre
Tuesday, December 17, 2015
One of the first "while impaired by drug" cases in Manitoba has ended with the accused going free because a judge says it's not clear whether the accused's marijuana use had any significant impact on his motor skills, in this case, the driver was going 80 km/hr, about 20 under the speed limit. (John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press Files)

He admits smoking up before getting behind the wheel and feeling a bit "tipsy" as a result.

But one of the first "driving while impaired by drug" cases in Manitoba has ended with the accused going free because a judge says it’s not clear whether the accused’s marijuana use had any significant impact on his motor skills.

"The indicia of impairment by alcohol are fairly well-known and accepted in the case law: improper driving, bloodshot or watery eyes, flushed face, odour of alcohol, slurred speech, lack of co-ordination and inability to perform physical tests, a lack of comprehension and inappropriate behaviour," provincial court Judge Cynthia Devine said in her written decision.

"The same cannot be said for the indicia of impairment by drugs."

The Criminal Code was amended in 2008 to make drug-impaired driving its own unique offence. But there have been a "relatively small" number of arrests and convictions in Manitoba, said Devine.

In this case, Tyler Manaigre was spot-checked by RCMP in November 2013 while driving near Steinbach. Corporal. Terry Sundell told court he pulled Manaigre over because he was only doing about 80 km/h, which was 20 km/h below the posted limit. There were no other issues with his driving.

Sundell had been specifically trained in drug recognition, finishing a course in Florida just weeks earlier. He said his suspicions were raised by the slower driving, even though it was a dark winter’s night.

"He noticed that the accused appeared to have larger than normal pupils and that the white part of his eyes had pink lines, known as reddened conjunctiva, which is, among other things, an indication of having consumed marijuana," Devine said in her judgment.

Manaigre admitted he had smoked about half a gram of pot that night but that he felt like he was OK to drive.

Sundell then put him through the standard field sobriety protocol, which involves a number of physical co-ordination tests such as balancing on one leg and touching your nose. Sundell testified Manaigre "did not perform (some of) them well."

"He testified however that the accused’s movements were slower and more deliberate and his manner of speaking seemed more deliberate, ‘It seemed that he wasn’t doing everything right off the bat. He was processing it and then responding,’" Devine said in summarizing the officer’s evidence.

Once at the RCMP detachment, Sundell put Manaigre through a specific drug evaluation as required by law. Again, he performed well in some tests, not so well in others. But Sundell said there was no doubt in his mind Manaigre was impaired.

"People that are sober and have no disabilities do not perform poorly on these examinations," he told court

Devine wasn’t as confident. She said there was nothing about Manaigre’s driving that night that speaks to possible impairment and that the mixed results on his various tests don’t provide a clear picture of his status.

"The accused in this case did well on several aspects of the tests and not as well on others. It is also difficult to know how a completely sober person would perform on several of these tests. The presumptive statement of the officer that sober people do not have difficulty with these tests is not helpful," said Devine.

She said the law requires her to find there was more than just "marijuana use" but actual impairment in order to convict.

"The evidence is therefore at best, equivocal," said Devine. "It is difficult to know precisely how performance on the tests is correlative to impairment."

Devine’s lengthy decision breaks down every single test Manaigre was put through and assesses the results.

"I am satisfied he consumed marijuana. I am even satisfied that he felt the effects of the marijuana at some point. But I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that his ability to drive was impaired, even to a slight degree, which is what is required in a driving impaired case," said Devine.

The Crown will have 30 days to decide whether they wish to appeal Devine’s decision.

Law enforcement may soon have breathalyzers to measure marijuana impairment

In an attempt to measure in real time

Julie Fidler
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Marijuana has been legalized in several states, leaving both drivers and law enforcement officials worried about people getting high and then getting behind the wheel. Current tests can tell cops whether an individual has smoked pot recently, but it can’t determine how impaired the person is. Law enforcement has to rely on behavior and appearance alone.

But a new invention will soon make it easier to law enforcement to weed out (pun intended) pot users who are too stoned to drive.

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A marijuana breathalyzer manufactured by Oakland, California-based Hound Labs Inc. will be used in clinical trials early next year, the company announced earlier this month.

“The idea is that law enforcement will have one device out on the road to test for both THC [a marijuana component] and alcohol,” said Hound Labs CEO and founder Dr. Mike Lynn, an emergency room physician at Highland Hospital, in Oakland.

Levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive component in marijuana – are traditionally tested using urine, blood, or saliva. These tests can only show whether the person has used cannabis in recent days or weeks, but they’re fairly useless when it comes to measuring real-time impairment. They’re expensive and results can take days. [1]

“The issue was really all-around measurement,” said Lynn. “We need a way to not only test ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for the presence of marijuana, but to actually measure and correlate THC levels with impairment, like we have done for alcohol.”

The hand-held devices will cost around $1,000, about what the average alcohol breathalyzer costs.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it’s well-known that marijuana impairs psychomotor skills and cognitive function, but not much is known about how much cannabis you have to use before you become unsafe on the road. [2]

While Hound Labs’ breathalyzer isn’t the only one on the market, Lynn claims his company’s product is the only one that can give precise measurements in pictograms – measurements of one-trillionth of a gram that can determine exactly how stoned someone is at that moment. [3]

Even so, some states are not waiting to find out. In Washington and Montana, the set limit is 5 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL) of blood, while Pennsylvania has set the limit at 1 ng/mL limit.

The new Hounds Lab device can measure THC levels from smoked pot, but can’t prove how impaired an individual is by itself.

“Our ability to measure THC in breath really should shift the national dialogue from one about simply detecting if THC is in someone’s body to a conversation where standards can be developed that reflect actual impairment,” Lynn said.

The new breathalyzer will be tested roadside by law enforcement agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area. If it proves useful, it could someday be used nationwide.

“Our ability to measure THC in breath really should shift the national dialogue from one about simply detecting if THC is in someone’s body to a conversation where standards can be developed that reflect actual impairment,” Lynn said.

Approximately 20 million Americans use marijuana. Some studies suggest its more common for young people to drive stoned than drive drunk.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns on its website that “marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”

A study funded partly by NIDA, the Office on National Drug Control Policy, and federal safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published in August found that “alcohol, but not marijuana, increased the number of times the car actually left the lane and the speed of the weaving.”

Pot did, however, reduce drivers’ peripheral vision, giving them tunnel vision. At blood concentrations of 13.1 µg/L THC, drivers began weaving within the lane more, similar to those with 0.08 breath alcohol (the legal limit in all 50 states).

But there’s not much data showing how many car accidents are actually caused by marijuana impairment. While it certainly does impair drivers to a degree, Benjamin Hansen, an economist at the University of Oregon in Eugene and at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who has studied marijuana legalization in relation to driving accidents, told LiveScience that if people who would normally drink and drive instead chose to smoke and drive, it might be safer for the population as a whole.

Hansen specified that it’s always better to drive while you’re not drunk or stoned, but he pointed to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Addictions that showed cognitive impairments caused by marijuana are correlated with only modest reductions in driving performance in driving simulations.

Additionally, a 2013 study in the Journal of Law and Economics found that in the year after medical marijuana laws were passed, traffic fatalities actually fell.


[1] CBS News

[2] Reuters

[3] The Washington Times

[4] CNN

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