Eight Massachusetts state senators are traveling to Colorado this week to learn about how Colorado deals with legal recreational marijuana, Joshua Miller wrote for The Boston Globe. Recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2012.
The legislators want to be informed in case Massachusetts residents put a vote on recreational pot up in November’s election. Massachusetts state legislators have made clear that “there is not the political interest or will to pass a legalization bill, but they have floated the idea of tinkering with a legalization law, if it garners sufficient signatures to make the statewide ballot and if voters approve it.”
Delegation leader Sen. Jason M. Lewis, chairman of the state’s special Senate committee on marijuana, is interested in matters such as laws to address drugged driving. The state senators plan to visit a cultivation facility, tour a dispensary, and will be asking Colorado state, municipal, and law enforcement officials how Colorado implemented its recreational marijuana law. The trip is being financed by the Milbank Memorial Fund, a nonpartisan health policy foundation in New York.
If Massachusetts voters want that state to legalize recreational use of pot, it would be a major change in social policy, Lewis said, and would create a new industry. The Massachusetts law being proposed by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts would create a Cannabis Control Commission.
Zero Tolerance for Cannabis in Illinois
In other marijuana news, Roz Varon writes for ABC7 Chicago that in Illinois, which allows medical but not recreational marijuana, there is currently zero tolerance for cannabis. Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said:
If there are any drugs in your system regardless of evidence of impairment, you can be charged with driving under the influence.
In Illinois, a driver who is pulled over for impairment will be arrested for refusing to take the standardized field sobriety test or for failing the test. Until that law changes, the Illinois State Police suggests that anyone who has consumed medical marijuana have a designated driver to avoid car accidents.
Per Se Marijuana Laws
In an article titled “As Legal Marijuana Expands, States Struggle With Drugged Driving,” Sarah Breitenbach writes for The Pew Charitable Trusts that at least 17 states have “per se” laws, which make it illegal to drive with certain blood levels of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. In Colorado, drivers are assumed to be under the influence of marijuana if they have THC levels of 5 nanograms per milliliter or higher, but the law also lets defendants produce evidence that they were not impaired.
Rebecca Hartman, a researcher with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told Breitenbach that marijuana’s effect can vary from person to person, depending on such things as how the cannabis was ingested and if the person is a long-term marijuana user. A study on drugged driving conducted by Hartman and others suggested that people driving with THC levels of 13.1 ng/ml had a tendency to weave within lanes, similar to those who had a 0.08 blood alcohol content. At that level of blood alcohol, drivers can be prosecuted in all states.
Marijuana and Cycling
In another news item, Tom Angell writes for Marijuana that a new study published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine found that marijuana use doesn’t seem to negatively impact the ability to safely ride a bicycle. For the study, conducted by German and Austrian researchers, 14 participants rode bicycles on an obstacle course after smoking cannabis cigarettes standardized to contain 300 micrograms of THC per kilogram of body weight. It was supplied by Dutch grower Bedrocan with the German government’s approval.
The participants had to slalom between poles, found balls rolling into their path, were verbally interrupted, and were subjected to glaring torch lights. They were given demerits for such missteps as leaving the track, knocking over barrels, swerving, going through a red light, and stopping at a green light. But, the researchers wrote, “Only a few driving faults were observed even under the influence of very high THC concentrations.”
However, Angell cautioned:
None of this is to say that operating any vehicle, particularly automobiles, while under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, is recommended. Driving while stoned is illegal, even in states that have ended cannabis prohibition.
Photo by Benoit Daoust/123RF.