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Source: @norml @WeedConnection
Posted By: norml@weedconnection.com
media :: news
- Thu, 03 Apr 2014 04:20:21 PST

Study: Higher THC/Blood Levels Not Positively Associated With Greater Fatal Accident Risk

Porirua, New Zealand: Marijuana-positive drivers possess a slightly elevated risk of accident compared to drug and alcohol free divers, but this risk is not positively correlated with higher blood/THC levels, according to the results of a crash culpability analysis published online in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

New Zealand researchers assessed the risk of accident associated with drivers who tested positive for the presence of drugs or alcohol in their blood compared to drug and alcohol free drivers in a cohort of 1,046 fatal vehicle crashes.

Alcohol-positive drivers were most likely to be culpable in fatal accidents (OR=13.7). Drivers who tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, including opiates, sedatives, cannabis, and stimulants, possessed an overall odds ratio of 3.5.

Drivers who tested positive for both cannabis and alcohol in their blood possessed were strongly associated with accident culpability (OR=6.9). By contrast, drivers who tested positive for the presence of marijuana only, as indicated by the presence of THC in blood, were weakly associated with accident culpability (OR=1.3). Notably, drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC in blood at levels of 5ng/ml or higher possessed no elevated rate of accident culpability (OR=1), but those with trace levels of THC (less than 2 ng/ml) did possess greater rates of culpability (OR=3.1).

According to a factsheet published by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "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, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH (metabolite) concentrations."

A road-performance study commissioned by the United States Department of Transportation similarly acknowledges: "One of the program's objectives was to determine whether it is possible to predict driving impairment by plasma concentrations of THC ... in single samples. The answer is very clear: it is not. Plasma of drivers showing substantial impairment in these studies contained both high and low THC concentrations, and, drivers with high plasma concentrations showed substantial, but also no impairment, or even some improvement."

Two states, Washington and Montana, define drivers who operate a motor vehicle with 5ng/ml or more of THC in blood as per se impaired. Colorado law presumes impairment in motorists who possess more than 5ng/ml of THC in their blood. Three states - Nevada (2ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), and Pennsylvania (1ng/ml) - impose lower per se limits for THC in blood. Eleven states impose zero tolerance per se laws for the presence of cannabis. Other states require prosecutors to provide evidence of recent drug ingestion as well as evidence that a driver was under the influence of the substances that he or she had consumed in order to gain a DUI drug conviction.

In a 2013 review published in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano opined against the imposition of per se limits for cannabinoids, arguing: "The sole presence of THC and/or its metabolites in blood, particularly at low levels, is an inconsistent and largely inappropriate indicator of psychomotor impairment in cannabis consuming subjects. ... As additional states consider amending their cannabis consumption laws, lawmakers would be advised to consider alternative legislative approaches to address concerns over DUI cannabis behavior that do not rely solely on the presence of THC or its metabolites in blood or urine as determinants of guilt in a court of law. Otherwise, the imposition of traffic safety laws may inadvertently become a criminal mechanism for law enforcement and prosecutors to punish those who have engaged in legally protected behavior and who have not posed any actionable traffic safety threat."

According to a 2013 meta-analysis of 66 studies published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, drug positive drivers for amphetamines (OR=6.19), opiates (OR=1.91) and benzodiazepenes (OR=1.17) possess the highest adjusted odds ratios of traffic accident injury, while drug positive drivers for penicillin (OR=1.12), antihistamines (OR= 1.12), cannabis (OR=1.10), and analgesics (OR=1.02) possess the lowest odds ratios.

Full text of the study, "The culpability of drivers killed in New Zealand road crashes and their use of alcohol and other drugs," is available from Accident Analysis and Prevention."

Study: Drug Dogs Most Likely To Err In Traffic Stop Scenarios

Stone Ridge, NY: Dogs trained to detect the presence of illegal drugs are most likely to provide false alerts in situations involving the search of a motor vehicle, according to the findings of a study published online in the journal Forensic Science International.

A team of researchers from the United States and Poland assessed the ability of trained drug-sniffing dogs to accurately detect the presence controlled substances - including marijuana, hashish, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin - in various environments.

Dogs were most likely to correctly identify the presence of contraband, particularly marijuana, during searches of individual rooms. If the dog had previous exposure to the room prior to the search, it was least likely to provide a false alert (83 percent correct identifications versus 10 percent false alerts).

Dogs were far less reliable in scenarios designed to mimic real-world traffic stops. In situations where dogs accessed the perimeter of a motor vehicle, the animals accurately alerted to the presence contraband only 64 percent of the time. Fifteen percent of the time dogs failed to recognize the presence of illicit drugs. Twenty-two percent of the time the dogs indicated that illegal drugs were present when they were not.

Drug dogs' failure rates were even more pronounced in situations where the animals had access to the inside of a vehicle. In this scenario, dogs correctly responded to the presence of contraband only 58 percent of time. They provided false alerts 36 percent of time.

Previous studies have similarly documented drug dogs' tendency to provide false alerts. In 2011, researchers at the University of California at Davis reported that the performance of drug-sniffing dogs is significantly influenced by whether or not their handlers believe illicit substances are present. That same year, a review of Australian government statistics, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, found that some 80 percent of drug dog alerts in New South Wales yielded no illicit substances.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Illinois v Caballes that an alert from a police dog during a traffic stop provides a constitutional basis for law enforcement to search the interior of the vehicle.

Full text of the study, "Efficacy of drug detection by fully-trained police dogs varies by breed, training level, type of drug and search environment," is available from Forensic Science International.

Michigan: Regulators Expand Medical Marijuana Law To Include PTSD

Lansing, MI: State regulators have agreed to allow physicians to authorize cannabis therapy for patients with post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

Members of the Medical Marihuana Review Panel voted 6 to 2 to expand the state's list of qualifying conditions to include PTSD. The Director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs signed off on the recommendation earlier this month.

This is the first time that regulators have expanded the state's list of qualifying conditions since voters initially legalized the physician-authorized use of cannabis in 2008.

Six other states - Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon - explicitly allow for the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Nevada regulators expanded their law to include PTSD earlier this year. Oregon and Maine lawmakers amended their medical cannabis laws last year to include post-traumatic stress.

Clinical trial data published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry theorized that cannabinoid-based therapies would likely comprise the "next generation of evidence-based treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)."

Post-traumatic stress syndrome is an anxiety disorder that is estimated to impact some eight million Americans annually. To date, there are no pharmaceutical treatments specifically designed or approved to target symptoms of PTSD.

Last week, federal officials at the Public Health Service approved the use of cannabis in a privately funded pilot trial at the University of Arizona College of Medicine to assess its potential risks and benefits in war veterans suffering from PTSD, including the plant's potential impact on subjects' anxiety, suicidality, and depression. Although FDA officials had initially approved the study in 2011, neither PHS (Public Health Service) nor NIDA (the US National Institute on Drug Abuse) signed off on the protocol until this month. Both agencies, as well as the US DEA, must approve any clinical trial involving cannabis.

Indiana: Lawmakers Approve Legislation Reclassifying Hemp As An Agricultural Commodity

Indianapolis, IN: House and Senate lawmakers have signed off on legislation, Senate Bill 357, to reclassify and regulate industrial hemp.

Members of the Senate had initially approved the legislation by a vote of 48 to zero. House members then voted 93 to 4 in favor of a slightly amended version of the measure. Lawmakers in both chambers agreed last week on a final version of the bill - sending it to Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who must either sign the measure into law or veto it.

The measure reclassifies cannabis possessing less than 0.3 percent THC as an industrial crop. It also seeks to establish licensing requirements and regulations governing the production of and commerce in hemp, as well as for the scientific study of the crop. The proposal mandates state regulators to seek federal waivers by no later than January 1, 2015 so that officials can begin the process of licensing applicants to cultivate the crop.

According to the Congressional Resource Service, the US is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop. However, in February, members of Congress for the first time approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant. Ten states - California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia - have enacted legislation reclassifying hemp as an agricultural commodity under state law.

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