Ignoring science and any valid reasoning, proponents of per se DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) laws for marijuana – a primary goal of our Drug Czar – have taken their fight to California, on the crooked wings of State Senator Lou Correa. Senator Correa is a Democrat from Santa Ana, and this week he filed Senate Bill 289, which would establish a complete zero tolerance driving policy for those with THC in their system, even if they’re a qualified medical marijuana patient.
If passed, this measure would instantly codify into law that it’s illegal for someone to drive with absolutely any amount of THC in their system. Not only is this unjust and ridiculous, it’s laughably unscientific. Science shows us that cannabis consumers can fail a zero tolerance THC test days or even weeks after last consumption, meaning that a joint someone smoked last week could land them with a life-altering DUID. Under the new law, as it’s per se, someone’s actual impairment wouldn’t be the factor for arrest, it would be an individual’s blood limit.
This fight for strict THC driving limits isn’t anything new. The Office of National Drug Policy Control (the group headed by our Drug Czar) has been pushing for years a national change to our driving policies; more specifically, a zero tolerance and per se policy for substances like THC.
The reason our federal government supports such a move is clear as day; it makes it easy for those who use illegal substances to be busted, even when they’re unimpaired, sober, and have no illegal drugs on their person.
When it comes to zero tolerance driving policies, Nathan Miller, a legal analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said it best:
The truth is, zero-tolerance laws aren’t about making roadways safer; they’re a disingenuous attempt to create a powerful, intrusive tool to root out those who use controlled substances such as marijuana, regardless of whether they operate an automobile under its influence. This type of justice is cruel, unusual and bad public policy.
This is a fight that’s been waging in Colorado as well, where legislators have rejected bills to add a 5 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) DUID policy for THC for three straight years, based primarily on public backlash, and a lack of scientific backing for such a change. In fact, a working group setup by Colorado’s Legislature to examine whether the new driving limit was appropriate voted against recommending such a change based on a lack of science, and its risk of prosecuting innocent people.
Senator Correa’s bill would be much stricter, and have an even larger potential of unjustly destroying the lives of thousands.
Currently there are 17 other states that have specifically designated limits for THC, that are per se (meaning that a person’s blood content, not their impairment level, is the sole indicator for guilt). However, even states like Arizona and Rhode Island have legal exceptions to this policy for those who are authorized medical cannabis patients.
Based on Senator Correa’s current language, patients would be subject to the same zero tolerance policy as everyone else. Meaning; a patient who legally consumes cannabis could be hit with a DUID, while driving unimpaired, weeks later.
If you’re a California resident, we can’t stress enough how important it is for you to look up and contact your district’s lawmakers, urging them to oppose Senate Bill 289, and any other legislation that would institute a zero tolerance driving policy on cannabis. Make sure to point out the peer-reviewed science that shows consumers will fail such a test weeks after last consuming cannabis, also pointing to Colorado’s workgroup that rejected an even higher 5 ng/ml policy.
The fight surrounding THC driving laws is one that will continue for years, even after cannabis is legalized, and it’s one that cannabis reform advocates need to continue paying close attention to, fighting for sanity and science-based laws along the way.