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AAA: Driver pot test shown to be invalid

From the Rutland Herald:

A report recently released by the American Automobile Association backs up what Vermont lawmakers heard during the debate over legalizing marijuana: There is no scientific way to prove if someone is under the influence of the drug while driving.

The AAA report looked at the states of Colorado, Washington and Montana, which all have thresholds in place for how much THC can be in someone’s system before they are considered to be under the influence. Those states established a threshold of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The report argues that the five nanograms threshold doesn’t work. After looking into the cases of drivers who were pulled over for DUI and had THC in their systems, AAA says a substantial number of those arrested would be misclassified as impaired and those who are actually impaired would not have been flagged by the test for THC.

The report looked into having thresholds from one nanogram to 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter, but it found no level of THC that would back up what police see while conducting field sobriety tests.

Those who frequently use marijuana can show high levels of THC despite not being impaired while occasional users will have the THC leave their system quickly, according to the report.

The report was put together by the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. That lab also gave the state the same results about not being able to scientifically prove someone is stoned when the state commissioned its own study last year.


Daily marijuana use among U.S. college students highest since 1980

From Michigan News:

Daily marijuana use among the nation's college students is on the rise, surpassing daily cigarette smoking for the first time in 2014.

A series of national surveys of U.S. college students, as part of the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, shows that marijuana use has been growing slowly on the nation's campuses since 2006.

Daily or near-daily marijuana use was reported by 5.9 percent of college students in 2014—the highest rate since 1980, the first year that complete college data were available in the study. This rate of use is up from 3.5 percent in 2007. In other words, one in every 17 college students is smoking marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days.

Other measures of marijuana use have also shown an increase: The percent using marijuana once or more in the prior 30 days rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014. Use in the prior 12 months rose from 30 percent in 2006 to 34 percent in 2014. Both of these measures leveled in 2014.

In addition, the use of synthetic marijuana (also called K-2 or spice) has been dropping sharply since its use was first measured in 2011. At that time, 7.4 percent of college students indicated having used synthetic marijuana in the prior 12 months; by 2014 the rate had fallen to just 0.9 percent, including a significant decline in use in 2014. One reason for the decline in synthetic drug use is that an increasing number of young people see it as dangerous.

Cigarette smoking continued to decline among the nation's college students in 2014, when 13 percent said they had smoked one or more cigarettes in the prior 30 days, down from 14 percent in 2013 and from the recent high of 31 percent in 1999—a decline of more than half. As for daily smoking, only 5 percent indicated smoking at that level, compared with 19 percent in 1999—a drop of nearly three fourths in the number of college students smoking daily.

Unfortunately, the appreciable declines in cigarette smoking have been accompanied by some increases in the use of other forms of tobacco or nicotine. Smoking tobacco using a hookah (a type of water pipe) in the prior 12 months rose substantially among college students, from 26 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2014.

In 2014, the use of e-cigarettes in the past 30 days stood at 9.7 percent, while use of flavored little cigars stood at 9.8 percent, of regular little cigars at 8.6 percent and of large cigars at 8.4 percent. The study will continue tracking the extent to which these alternate forms of tobacco use are changing in popularity, not only among college students, but also among their age peers not in college and among secondary school students.

Posted: 9/1/2015 3:38:00 PM

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Researchers document drug use among Ultra Music Festival attendees

From: Miami Herald

Fair or not, after 16 years Ultra Music Festival has developed a reputation not only as a cornucopia of lights and sounds, but also as a smorgasbord of psychotropic uppers and downers.  But according to a federally funded study, if you ask 100 audience members to pee in a cup in exchange for a $20 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card, 80 just might test positive for drugs.

At least, researchers from the Center for Forensic Science Research & Education said that was their experience last year when they set up camp outside Bayfront Park and sought to document drug use among the thousands of ticket holders who flock to downtown Miami each year for three days of electronic dance music. The event typically sells more than 160,000 tickets.

Out of 145 voluntary participants, 72 percent admitted to having consumed marijuana, cocaine, molly or ecstasy during the past week. And for the 100-plus brave souls who went a step further and agreed to have their blood taken, or give a urine sample, researchers said they found that 58 percent and 80 percent, respectively, had recently consumed designer drugs.

The goal of the study, according to a summary of the results, was not to find out how many at Ultra are on drugs, but to get a better grasp of “some of the newly emerging and potentially dangerous new drugs popular in the [electronic dance music] community.”

“We found the participants at the event were very open with us about their knowledge of the drug scene and drug use,” said Barry Logan, the Pennsylvania-based center’s executive director. “We found a lot of the time what they thought they were taking was not what they were taking.”

Of the 104 urine samples, more than 80 percent tested positive for a synthetic drug, most commonly molly, followed by Alpha-PVP, a synthetic bath salt known as gravel, which ultimately killed 21-year-old Adonis Peña Escoto last year.

However, Logan said the survey was conducted with far too small a sample size — less than one tenth of a percent of the tickets sold for the festival — to be taken as any kind of statistical representation of the drug use at Ultra.

“A lot of people who read this assume it’s an indicator of prevalence, which I don’t think it is,” said Logan.

Now in its 16th year, Ultra is returning to downtown Miami in late March as an 18-and-older festival.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article9709724.html#storylink=cpy

Drugged Driving Increases While Drunk Driving Decreases

From: Insurance Journal

The nation’s decades-long campaign to combat drunk driving continues to make our roads safer, but use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the highways, creating new safety questions, according to two studies released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One study, the latest version of NHTSA’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since 1973.

But the same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.

A one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years “shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

However, Rosekind said, the survey raises “significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” said NHTSA Administr

The reports are consistent with another study released in June by Public Health Reports. This study found that since 1993, the profile of a drugged driver has changed substantially. More drivers are now testing positive for prescription drugs, cannabis, and multiple drugs, and they are more likely to be older than 50.

“While we’ve seen a decrease over the years in motor vehicle fatalities involving people under the influence, the nature of those crashes is changing,” said the Public Health Reports study author, Fernando Wilson, PhD, associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Wilson found that the percentage of drugged drivers with three or more drugs in their system nearly doubled from 1993 to 2010, increasing from 11.5 percent to 21.5 percent.

Learn more about drugged driving and state-by-state impared driving laws at StopDUID.org


Student fell to death after eating weed cookie

From theGrio:

An autopsy report lists marijuana intoxication as a “significant contributing factor” in the death of 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi, a native of the Republic of Congo who fell from a motel balcony on March 11.

Levy was a Wyoming college student who was visiting Denver on spring break. Investigators believe Pongi and his friends came to Colorado to try marijuana, Weiss-Samaras said.

Colorado legalized recreational sales of the drug in January. Colorado law bans the sale of recreational marijuana products to people under 21. It is also illegal for those under 21 to possess marijuana, and adults can be charged with a felony for giving it to someone under the legal age.

Authorities said one of Pongi’s friends was old enough to buy the cookie from a pot shop. It was unclear whether the friend might face charges.

It marked the first time the Denver medical examiner’s office has listed a marijuana edible as a contributor to a death, said Michelle Weiss-Samaras, a spokeswoman for the office.

The medical examiner’s office had Pongi’s body tested for at least 250 different substances, including bath salts and synthetic marijuana, which are known to cause strange behavior. His blood tested positive only for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to the report.

The marijuana concentration in Pongi’s blood was 7.2 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. Colorado law says juries can assume someone is driving while impaired by marijuana if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of the chemical.

Posted: 4/9/2014 2:58:00 PM

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'Dabbing' the new drug of choice for teens?

From ABC15 (Phoenix, AZ):

It’s a new twist on an old drug and it’s becoming increasingly more popular among teens in Arizona.

The drug is called “Butane Hash Oil” or BHO.

On the street it goes by many names including shatter, wax, ear wax, honey oil, amber or dabbing.

Dabbing because you only need a dab.

This latest butane form of hash oil is highly potent.

According to Not My Kid, strong strains of marijuana contain 25% tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, while some butane hash oil can contain upwards of 60-90% THC.

For teens, it’s easier to conceal, easier to carry, but much more dangerous to make.

Another danger is butane can be left in the oil.

“The person that uses it could be smoking butane which is neurotoxic and very dangerous,” Watson warns.

Parents should look for items like butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol, and coffee filters.

Posted: 9/17/2013 10:57:00 AM

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Woman claims she was fired for inhaling second-hand pot smoke

From KBOI2.com:

You can't get drunk if the person next to you is overdoing it with the booze. But what if they were smoking pot? The consequences of breathing their second-hand smoke could lead to your firing or even a DUI.

Cheryl Hale said she doesn't smoke marijuana or use it in another form. The only one who smokes pot is her husband, Edwin Blake. Edwin admits to being a heavy marijuana smoker for his back pain.

"I was fired for testing positive for marijuana even though mine was from second hand smoke," Hale said.

Many companies have a zero tolerance policy for employees who test positive for marijuana. Hale said her company has that policy but there is no clause if the employee claims it's from breathing second-hand pot smoke.

The Problem solvers wanted to find out for ourselves to see how easy it is to test positive from second hand smoke.

After an hour of breathing second hand smoke, I used the oral swab to test my THC level. It registered positive for THC in my system. If I was subject to a random drug test after my exposure to Edwin's smoke, I most likely would have been fired.

But the Problem Solvers wanted to take the experiment one step further. Would it be possible to get a "contact high" and reach the state's new automatic DUI level, just from breathing second hand pot smoke.

Initiative 502 set a per se limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of Tetrahydocannabinol or THC in the blood. Delta 9 THC is the active ingredient that makes people high. Go over 5 nanograms in blood test, you are legally impaired in the eyes of the state. A "per se limit" is legalese for saying a person is "legally impaired".

Most people are familiar with the blood alcohol limit of .08, the per se limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. But the former state toxicologist, Dr. Barry Logan, said you can't compare the legal impairment level of 5 nanograms of THC for pot to the .08 blood alcohol limit.

"There's no way to equate a blood marijuana level to an equivalent level of impairment with same level of confidence that there is with alcohol," said Logan, who is now the Director of Toxicology and Forensic Science for NMS Labs in Pennsylvania.

That's because there are not as many studies on levels of impairment with marijuana as there are with alcohol.

We enlisted the help of several medical marijuana users. Eight people smoke a variety of fairly intense weed for an hour while I casually breathed their marijuana smoke.

After an hour, the results showed I had a Delta 9 THC level of 1.1 nanograms per milliliter, below the state's legal impairment limit of 5 nanograms.

But there is the twist Washingtonians new to the effects of marijuana should know. THC in the blood falls of dramatically within minutes of the last inhale compared to alcohol which stays in your blood much longer.

"THC levels can fall as much as 60 percent in the first 15 minutes and then by as much as 80 percent in the first 30 minutes after a person stops smoking," Logan said.

Posted: 5/2/2013 11:20:00 AM

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Evaluating Marijuana Behind the Wheel

From The Epoch Times:

As states ease up on marijuana possession laws, police, legislators, and a skittish driving public worry how this trend will impact road safety. Cannabis clearly has an influence on driver performance, but there is a wide range of opinions about how long to wait after the last toke before getting behind the wheel.

With more states allowing medical and even recreational cannabis, the federal government has been encouraging safety precautions with tougher restrictions for DUI. To date 14 states have traded their effects-based standard to one that establishes a conviction based on blood test results. A driver impairment law that relies on the presence of a substance is called a per se law.

These per se laws essentially treat cannabis like alcohol, where a blood concentration threshold for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—marijuana’s psychoactive chemical—legally determines inebriation. Most states have a .08 blood alcohol per se law to determine if a person is drunk, and a zero tolerance policy for THC, where any amount is justification enough for a DUI conviction and a suspended license.

Just like with alcohol, drivers who test at or above this per se threshold are considered unfit to drive. The recent measure passed in Washington state sets the bar at the high end of the spectrum—five nanograms of THC per ml of blood.

At first glance the notion seems to make good sense—especially given the last 25 years of success with alcohol per se law enforcement in lessening traffic fatalities. However, experts say a THC blood test will never produce a similar result because of a fundamental difference in pharmacokinetics.

First, a cop with a Breathalyzer can accurately measure blood alcohol, but not THC. While authorities talk of an oral swab test in the works, right now THC requires a blood test, which by law must be administered by a licensed medical professional, who may not be available for several hours after the initial arrest.

The most important difference with alcohol is that blood THC has proven to be an unreliable measure for intoxication. Unlike alcohol, THC levels are highest upon first ingesting the drug, yet the greatest impairment does not come until about 20 minutes later after blood THC levels have plummeted. While marijuana smoke can leave a few nanograms of THC lingering in the system for 24 hours or more, research has shown that driving ability usually returns to normal in just a few hours.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that time rather than THC level is a more accurate gauge for evaluating a safe or unsafe driver. Results from NHTSA’s comprehensive 1993 study (a government trial that put cannabis smokers behind the wheel in both a closed course and in heavy urban traffic) found that driver performance noticeably diminished the first two hours after smoking. Driving skills returned to baseline sobriety about three hours after inhalation, and sometimes even improved.

For those familiar with the prevailing science, strict THC per se laws have been a hard sell, but supporters argue that the science is changing. A study released in this month’s American Association of Clinical Chemistry looks at chronic marijuana users at a deeper level than before.

Lead author Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is at the forefront of this new look at THC blood levels. Dr. Huestis has been studying the effects of marijuana for decades, and her latest report observes a trend demonstrated over three published papers.

While the majority of scientists say the effects of marijuana dissipate relatively quickly, Huestis reports that both THC and impaired performance linger in the brains of daily users for weeks after their last puff. The chronic users Huestis observed were still excreting THC from their tissues even after a month of abstinence, and did not respond as well as the control group in psychomotor and divided attention tasks.

According to Heustis’s conclusions, all regular cannabis consumers—including patients who have demonstrated a medical necessity—would automatically become a traffic risk in the eyes of the law even after weeks of abstinence.

Posted: 3/13/2013 3:26:00 PM

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2 states legalize recreational marijuana use

From Fox News:

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana Tuesday night, setting up a battle between the states and the federal government, which prohibits use of the drug.

The Colorado measure has sparked a national debate about marijuana policy, with supporters pushing for the federal government to end marijuana prohibition nationwide. The Colorado measure states adults over 21 can possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, or six marijuana plants, for personal use. Opponents have said it will make the state a haven for drug tourists.

The measure in Washington State, Initiative 502, will legalize and regulate the production, possession and distribution of marijuana for residents age 21 and older.

The new law will impose a 25 percent tax rate on marijuana when the grower sells it to the processor, when the processor sells it to the retailer and when the retailer sells it to the customer. The measure could bring in $500 million, a figure analysts dispute.

Voters in Oregon, where the pro-marijuana advocates were less organized and poorly funded, defeated a ballot measure that would have allowed the commercial growth and sale of marijuana to adults. Known as Measure 80, it would have legalized pot through state-licensed stores, allowed unlicensed growth and use of marijuana by adults and prohibit restrictions on pot.

In Arkansas, voters rejected a measure legalizing medical marijuana, while in Massachusetts, voters supported a similar measure.

Posted: 11/7/2012 8:54:00 AM

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Strange reason for newborns' positive pot test found

From msnbc.com:

Certain soaps used to wash babies shortly after birth may cause the baby to test positive for marijuana on some newborn screening tests, a new study suggests.

In the study, urine samples that contained minute amounts of any of five baby soaps — Johnson & Johnson's Head-to-Toe Baby Wash, J&J Bedtime Bath, CVS Night-Time Baby Bath, Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash and Aveeno Wash Shampoo — gave a positive result on a drug screening test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

The researchers began their investigation after nurses at a North Carolina hospital reported an increase in the number of newborns testing positive for marijuana.

It's important to note the soaps do not produce a "high," or any other effects of marijuana, in infants. "It's not marijuana a in any way, shape or form," said study researcher Catherine Hammett-Stabler, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A screening test that indicates a baby has been exposed to marijuana can lead to the involvement of social services, and accusations of child abuse, the researchers said.

Given these consequences, it's important for health-care providers and laboratory staffs to be aware that these soaps may lead to a positive test for marijuana, and to consider confirming positive tests with a more sensitive method, the researchers said.

Posted: 7/13/2012 10:32:00 AM

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