#NORML #News
Source: @norml @WeedConnection
Posted By: norml@weedconnection.com
media :: norml
- Tue, 17 Feb 2015 04:20:21 PST

Feds: THC-Positive Drivers No More Likely To Be Involved In Motor Vehicle Crashes

Washington, DC: Drivers who test positive for the presence of THC in their blood are no more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes than are drug-free drivers, according to a case-control study released last week by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Authors reported that drivers who tested positive for the presence of THC possessed an unadjusted, elevated risk of accident of 25 percent (Odds Ratio=1.25) compared to controls (drivers who tested negative for any drug or alcohol). However, this elevated risk became insignificant (OR=1.05) after investigators adjusted for demographic variables, such as the drivers' age and gender. After researchers controlled for both demographic variables and the presence of alcohol, THC-positive drivers' elevated risk of accident was zero (OR=1).

By contrast, researchers reported that drivers who tested positive for low levels of alcohol possessed a statistically significant risk of accident, even after controlling for demographic variables (e.g., Drivers with a BAC of 0.03 possessed a 20 percent greater risk of motor vehicle accident [OR=1.20] compared to controls). Drivers with BAC levels of 0.05 possessed a greater than two-fold risk of accident (OR=2.07) while motorists with BAC levels of 0.08 possessed a nearly four-fold risk of accident (OR=3.93).

Researchers did not analyze variations in drivers' THC levels to similarly estimate whether higher or lower THC levels may impact crash risk in a dose-dependent manner, as has been previously reported in some separate analyses of fatal crash data.

Authors concluded, "This finding indicates that these other variables (age, gender, ethnicity, and alcohol use) were highly correlated with drug use and account for much of the increased (crash) risk associated with the use of illegal drugs and THC. ... [T]he results of this study are consistent with ... previous well-controlled studies."

The study, which involved some 9,000 participants, is the first large-scale case-control study ever conducted in the United States to assess the crash risk associated with both drugs and alcohol use by drivers.

The study's finding contradict allegations by NIDA and others that "marijuana use more than doubles a driver's risk of being in an accident," but are largely consistent with those of a 2013 literature review published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention which reported that cannabis-positive drivers did not possess a statistically significant risk of a either fatal accident or a motor vehicle accident causing injury.

A previous NHTSA-sponsored study assessing whether psychomotor motor impairment may be positively correlated with THC/blood levels similarly reported, "The answer is very clear; it is not."

An online NHTSA fact-sheet, "Drugs and Human Performance: Cannabis," acknowledges: "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 (the carboxy THC metabolite) concentrations."

NORML's white paper on cannabis and psychomotor performance is online @ https://norml.org/library/item/cannabis-and-driving-a-scientific-and-rational-review

Surgeon General Acknowledges Marijuana Can Be Helpful

Washington, DC: Newly appointed US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CBS News last week that he believes that cannabis is a beneficial therapy for some patients.

Speaking on the program 'CBS This Morning,' Murthy said: "We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful." He added, "I think we have to use that data to drive policy making and I'm very interested to see where that data takes us."

Later that evening, however, Murthy appeared to retreat from his initial public comments. In a Department of Health and Human Services statement attributed to the Surgeon General, Murthy said, "While clinical trials for certain components of marijuana appear promising for some medical conditions, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the standards for safe and effective medicine for any condition to date."

Doctor Murthy was confirmed as US Surgeon General late last year.

Commenting on the Surgeon General's statements, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "It was predictable that the Surgeon General would try to dial back his initial comments since they were inconsistent with the Schedule I classification of marijuana under federal law -- a scheduling that defines the plant and its organic compounds as possessing 'no currently accepted medical use .... in the United States' and lacking 'accepted safety ... under medical supervision.' Yet, it is obvious from the Surgeon's General's initial remarks that he, like the overwhelming majority of Americans, believes this prohibitive classification is out of step with both modern science and with public opinion."

On Wednesday in Sacramento, a federal judge heard final arguments in a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis' Schedule I classification. In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five-day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant's present categorization.

A ruling on the motion is expected later this year.

Federal Lawmakers Introduce Bill Allowing VA Docs To Recommend Cannabis

Washington, DC: A bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers last week introduced legislation - House Bill 667, The Veterans Equal Access Act - authorizing physicians at the US Department of Veterans Affairs "to provide recommendations to veterans" wishing to participate in state medical marijuana programs.

The measure is now awaiting action before the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

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