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State of the states on driving and marijuana, Part 2

Many people might reasonably think that they could correctly gauge the conclusions of a government-led study on the effects of marijuana use on drivers.

The findings would have to be negative and indicating the danger of pot ingestion by motorists, right? After all, pot -- like alcohol -- is a mind-impairing substance, and we all know where government authorities stand regarding drivers' use of alcohol.

The central finding from a study conducted by researchers from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration a generation ago concerning THC (the high-inducing chemical present in cannabis) might surprise some readers.

"THC's adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small," noted the researchers.

In fact, the study findings demonstrated that pot users' driving capabilities were not remotely diminished in the manner that other studies posit for motorists under the influence of alcohol.

"Drivers retain insight into their performance," the study noted.

Another and far more recent study conducted at Yale University essentially concluded the same thing. Experienced pot smokers, stated researchers, "show almost no functional impairment" behind the wheel.

Such findings, coupled with anecdotal observations of legions of marijuana users, likely contribute to the mixed bag of pot-and-driving laws on the books in states across the country. Unlike the case with alcohol, there is no national "here's the legal limit" law for THC.

And a recent media story discussing pot use and driving points out that multiple and material difficulties exist that make the development of an accurate and uniform standard anytime soon a remote proposition.

Current technology only provides some insight into whether THC is in a person's system. No test can determine when pot was actually consumed. In fact, and as noted in the above story, "marijuana can stay in the blood for days, even weeks."

And what threshold amount of detected THC would qualify as unlawful from an across-the-board national perspective? As the above-cited studies (and many others) point out, some pot smokers don't seem affected at all by the drug.

Until technology and testing protocols have materially advanced in the area, it would seem to be a purely arbitrary act to assign any particular value as a legal threshold for gauging the impairment of drivers with THC in their systems.

And inaccuracy would undoubtedly be a repeatedly raised objection to any number offered up for consideration.

 

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