DUI attorney challenges laws prohibiting driving while stoned

“This is about the only thing keeping me interested in living on a planet with a lot of strange, silly, and weak minded people. Well plus good music & art and all the normal creatively free-thinking people, too. Ahh, who am I kidding, I love it here… I just wish I could snap more people out of their slumbers and stick some stiff upright spines in their backs, so, we can all begin the path to a more independent, (i.e. less government), understanding, intellectual, and compassionate way of conducting our way in our worlds very, very beautiful patchwork.”

-F.F. 9/03/01

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BY STEPHEN C. WEBSTER

Is driving while under the influence of THC, one of marijuana’s active ingredients, actually dangerous? One prominent California DUI attorney believes it is not nearly as dangerous as driving drunk and has issued a challenge to laws that punish marijuana users who get behind the wheel.

San Diego defense attorney Lawrence Taylor, considered “The Dean of DUI Attorneys,” according to a release by his firm, is apparently arguing that DUI laws are unfair because they do not allow consideration for the varying degrees of inebriation caused by drugs of abuse.

Drivers convicted of marijuana intoxication are usually sentenced only after authorities have taken a blood sample. However that blood sample, he notes, only measures the body’s metabolism of marijuana’s compounds, not the actual level of impairment.

Evidence of marijuana use can remain in the human body for weeks or or longer, as it has been shown to latch on to fat cells, causing some inactive users to fail drug tests after a period of weight loss. For drivers accused of operating a vehicle while stoned, the presence of blood test results showing recent marijuana consumption can become a tricky legal hurdle.

In an advisory circulated through PRNewswire, Taylor cites two recent federal studies which concluded driving stoned is less dangerous than driving drunk, particular for more experienced marijuana users.

“In one [study], the U.S. Department of Transportation conducted DUI research with a fully interactive simulator on the effects of alcohol and marijuana, alone and in combination, on driver-controlled behavior and performance,” Taylor’s release said.

That study noted, “alcohol was found to have a consistent and significant impairment effect, while marijuana had only an occasional effect,” according to the National Transportation Library. “Also, there was little evident of interaction between alcohol and marijuana. Accidents and speeding tickets reliably increased under alcohol, but no marijuana or combined alcohol and marijuana influence was noted. The alcohol impairment effects on steering and speed control behavior and performance were consistent with the increased accident and ticket rate.”

On his blog, Taylor wrote in April: “A more recent report entitled “Marijuana and Actual Performance”, DOT-HS-808-078, noted that ‘THC is not a profoundly impairing drug….It apparently affects controlled information processing in a variety of laboratory tests, but not to the extent which is beyond the individual’s ability to control when he is motivated and permitted to do so in driving’.”

He added that the researcher concluded it is apparently “not possible to conclude anything about a driver’s impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations of THC and THC-COOH determined in a single sample.”

Taylor, who authored the book “Drunk Driving Defense,” also said recently that DUI laws discriminate against women, as current means of measuring sobriety put females over the legal limit, even when they’ve consumed less alcohol than a man of similar weight and height.

For that claim he cited a study by the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, which found that “women have significantly lower partition ratios than men,” his release noted. “[The] lower the ratio, the higher the reading — even though the true blood alcohol level does not vary.”

Which means, “the breathalyzer will show an average man accused of drunk driving to be innocent — but a woman with the same blood alcohol level to be guilty,” Taylor said.

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/09/03/dui-attorney-challenges-laws-prohibiting-driving-while-stoned/

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