California: Assembly Committee Rejects Unscientific 'Drugged Driving' Legislation

Thursday, 01 May 2014

Members of the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety have rejected amended legislation, Assembly Bill 2500, which sought 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 opposed the imposition of this legislation. California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer testified against the measure at its April 29th hearing. Committee members voted overwhelmingly against the measure, with only two Committee members deciding in its favor.

THC, particularly in more regular users -- such as state-qualified medical marijuana patients -- may be present for periods of time extending beyond any reasonable period of impairment. In one recent study, several experienced cannabis users still had detectable levels of THC present in their blood after seven days of monitored abstinence. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration affirms, "It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone."

The United States Department of Transportation Drug Expert Recognition Training materials similarly acknowledge: "Toxicology has some important limitations. One limitation is that, with the exception of alcohol, toxicology cannot produce "per se" proof of drug impairment. That is, the chemist can't analyze the blood or urine and come up with a number that "proves" the person was or wasn't impaired."

This proposed 'per se' measure was an unscientific and disproportionate response to behavior that is already sufficiently addressed by present traffic safety laws. The sole presence of THC in blood, particularly at low levels, is an inconsistent and largely inappropriate indicator of psychomotor impairment in cannabis consuming subjects. The imposition and enforcement of these strict liability standards risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations, including those persons who are consuming cannabis legally in accordance with other state statutes. Committee members were correct to reject these proposed standards.

NORML thanks the over 2,000 of you who used our services to voice your opposition to AB 2500.

The NORML Team