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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Impairment Is Obvious


Canada has introduced legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana by July 2018. Governor Phil Scott has said that he wants a (non-existent) roadside marijuana test to be available before he would consider signing any legalization bills in Vermont.

Not terribly long ago, the test for impaired driving was simply "are you obviously driving impaired?" Swerving, driving the wrong speed, being extra cautious, taking turns widely, overcompensating for corrections, forgetting to turn on lights, failing to stop, failing to use a turn signal, and so on were (and are) good signs that a driver might be impaired.

If we drivers, bikers or pedestrians notice someone driving erratically, we take notice. That person is probably impaired! We don’t administer a roadside test, and it doesn’t really matter what substance is impairing them.

Police have given verbal roadside tests for a long time (“Count backward...”) to test impairment.

Device-based breath tests for alcohol-impairment seem created more for legal reasons and courtrooms than for any safety reasons. It was simply more convincing in a court to have a standard scale and readout of a blood alcohol level. Evidence! (We like radar guns for similar reasons.)

But that drunk driver wasn’t pulled over because of a roadside test, they were pulled over because someone visually noticed impaired behavior. If they had killed someone the test would not have prevented it. It might be a helpful legal receipt, perhaps, but after the fact.

It works for alcohol, but there are many forms of impaired driving. Someone might be driving poorly due to medications, or lack of sleep, or stress, or texting, or cocaine, or heroin, or pets on the lap, or kids in the back seat, or anything anyone can possibly imagine.

We don’t need breath tests to be certain someone was holding a puppy while driving through the stoplight. They can be issued a citation without giving up some biological sample.

Likewise, if the person driving with a puppy on their lap is really good at it and drives exceptionally well with said puppy on lap, perhaps better than other drivers sharing the road, then there should be no reason to pull them over to test for puppy impairment, right? If someone is great at driving under the influence of puppies on laps, is there a problem?

People are either driving safely, and it is obvious, or they are not. Police have full authority, and a duty, to take note of and pull over drivers who appear to be impaired. My guess is that they do this just about every day, and I bet they find that drivers are impaired for all sorts of reasons, not just those they can test with a breathalyzer.

I’m also guessing that there always at least a few totally whacked-out distracted drivers on the road at any given moment. Part of my defensive driving is to pay attention and watch out for them, using my natural senses and personal judgement. I don’t need a standardized test to administer.

For similar reasons, I think the Governor is putting up an artificial testing roadblock. No marijuana test is required to judge if someone is driving impaired. They will get pulled over by officers, right now and in the future, if and when the Governor signs a bill.

Meanwhile, our neighbors to both the north (Canada) and south (Massachusetts) don’t see a need for roadside testing before lifting prohibitions. Their existing policing skills and tools are up to the task. Why doesn’t our governor trust our law enforcement system?

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There's another election coming up in under two years

"Why doesn’t our governor trust our law enforcement system?"

He does trust them. The police as well as the so-called "Smart-Marijuana" anti-marijuana group have powerful lobby's.

There's something very wrong in this state legislature concerning this issue. And, the one's who are very right about adult marijuana use are not powerful enough to overcome them.

I've advocated the alcohol model to legalize marijuana where, as you say, we "already" have DUI law's, both for adults and the underage, on the books.

Oh well, there's another election coming up in less than two years.

 
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High performing alcoholics

You’ve probably heard the expression: “I didn’t know he drank until I saw him sober one day.”
Certain chronic alcoholics become so acclimated to their condition that they appear “normal”. Police stopping them might not realize they are impaired. A breathalyzer or blood test can detect this. However, some sort of performance based impairment test is also needed.

Conversely, “naïve” drinkers may appear impaired although their blood alcohol is quite low. And, they may actually be impaired.
A blood test will fail to detect impairment in this case.

A blood test for Marijuana is unlikely due to the fact that THC remains in the blood long after the “high” and any impairment has disappeared.

I think Gov. Scott is playing with words.

 
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...talk about impairment…

I think forces arrayed against marijuana in this state look to testing as way to keep legalization from Vermont. BTW, the anti-marijuana forces are losing ground and they know it. Vermont is surely a token state of resistance while all around us, including Canada, marijuana is moving pretty smoothly into the adult consumer and taxing arena.

The prohibitionists need at least one state under their control and Vermont is the easiest target. We have a 650,000 population where Rand noted that they estimate about 80,000 marijuana users who spend about 175 million dollars a year on it. Moreover, marijuana users and marijuana friendly people are notoriously “complacent with the status quo, as long as they were not one of the unfortunate marijuana users to become an arrest statistic.

But the taxable money is of no consequence to people who need (crave) to win their marijuana war. It looks like Vermont is one of those states.

As for testing, yes, a component of the drug stays in the body a long time but it not the so-called “high” component, which lasts only several hours or more. If a person smokes marijuana on the weekend but drives to work the next morning, most working people want a good night’s sleep. Those people can test positive for marijuana but they are not impaired.

The marijuana testing is, unlike alcohol, complex, and therefore, easily used against adult marijuana consumers. It makes me glad that I am quite fond of my “port” which I can buy bottled at the redemption center. I never, ever drive a 2 ton vehicle impaired (inebriated) and particularly dislike it if others do. Of course, there is always texting while driving (TWD)…talk about impairment…

 
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Unlike alcohol

Alcohol is a completely innocent relaxing agent. However, Marihuana makes people crazy.
All the evidence is here in this film:
https://archive.org/details/reefer_madness1938

The film is, 100% true as you soon will find out.

Have a nice trip!

 
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Tongue-in-cheek humor

"The tongue-in-cheek figure of speech is used to imply that a statement or other production is humorously or otherwise not seriously intended, and it should not be taken at face value. The phrase was originally meant to express contempt."

 
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Humor

What’s humorous is that “Madness“ was not intended as humor.
The same mind set is present in today's prohibitionists.

 
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Crazy Driver

Just an anecdotal note - back in the late 1960's when I was in college, I had one friend with whom I would not ride when he was 'straight'. He was a speed demon, took curves at too fast a speed, took too many chances, ran red lights, and etc. When he was stoned, however, he focused and paid greater attention to what he was doing, becoming a careful and sensible driver. Then I'd ride with him.

 
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Stevil makes an important point

I had wanted to make a similar point, but Stevil has beat me to it with a better example than I would have come up with.

I was never a speed devil or dangerous driver, but I did learn to shift gears while stoned, and for the longest time I could not drive stick unless I was stoned.

 
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Thanks!

Lots of good comments and thoughts here - thanks!

Yes, where is the roadside test for texting while driving?

Yes, I have driven with some terrible drivers who haven't had anything to drink, smoke, inject, etc. What roadside test prevents them?

If one wants to oppose the current bill, oppose it for a real reason - such as no business opportunities or local option tax revenue included. Opposing it because we need to wait for a unicorn is silly.

 

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