On April 23, the California State Senate's public safety committee will hold hearings on SB289, the proposed law that would allow police to arrest anyone driving with even trace amounts of marijuana in their system. The bill's author Lou Correa, the Democratic State Senator from Anaheim who hopes to become the state's next attorney general, seems to think the measure will burnish his law and order bonafides. But SB289 is a classic example of nanny-state legislating, the kind of nonsense that conservatives and libertarians love to trash, and more importantly, there's no evidence the law will actually improve public safety, nor does it appear to be based on legitimate research about marijuana and driving.
Not surprisingly, medical marijuana activist groups like CANORML are asking citizens to contact their legislators and urge them to stop Correa's bill from going forward. "The science is clear that driving impairment can't be determined by the presence of marijuana in the blood," argues Dale Gierenger, NORML's director, who adds that the U.S. government's own research backs up that claim.
As anyone familiar with marijuana research already knows, the amount of THC in the blood does not necessarily directly correlate to exactly how stoned or thus, how impaired you are. Depending on frequency of use, THC can in fact remain in your blood for days or weeks. " In effect, SB 289 is equivalent to calling drivers DUI if they've had a glass of beer or wine in the past few hours, or left an empty bottle in their trash," Gieringer says.
Meanwhile, goverment statistics on freeway crashes in California also show that there is no proof that greater access to marijuana, medical or otherwise, has led to an increase in pot-related collissions, injuries or deaths. In fact, over the past 16-plus years since Californians obtained the right to smoke marijuana for medical reasons, highway safety has actually improved. Part of the fact that recent years have seen fewer and fewer road fatalities can certainly be credited to tougher enforcement of drunk driving laws, but Correa's vision of zero-tolerance so far seems more like special-interest pandering and fear-mongering than a legitimate measure to improve public safety. Stay tuned!
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