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Roadside Sobriety Testing For Pot

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Public support for legalizing cannabis would increase significantly if a roadside field sobriety test were widely available to detect drivers' impaired by pot, according to survey data published in the Harm Reduction Journal.

Investigators at the University of Albany, State University of New York, analyzed national polling data of 1,002 registered voters regarding their attitudes toward taxing and regulating cannabis. Respondents were first asked, "Do you agree or disagree that marijuana should be legally taxed and regulated like liquor, tobacco, and gambling?" Respondents were then asked, "If police had a roadside impairment test for marijuana like the one they use for alcohol, would you support or oppose marijuana being legally taxed and regulated like liquor, tobacco, and gambling?" The NORML Foundation commissioned Zogby International to conduct the poll.

Thirty-six percent of respondents said they supported legalizing marijuana when initially polled. Public support for taxing and regulating pot jumped to 44 percent with the additional provision of roadside impairment tests. (Investigators noted, however, that this increased support was not uniformly from those who had previously disagreed with the question.)

"With the widespread use of roadside impairment tests, many voters may alter their perceptions regarding the legalization and regulation of cannabis," authors concluded. "Campaigns that educate registered voters about the existence of roadside impairment tests for cannabis have the potential to increase support for reform."

Although police and drug recognition experts in some states have modified Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) to assess whether drivers may also be under the influence of cannabis, such testing is not yet widely available.

NORML Advisory Board Member Mitch Earleywine, who co-authored the study, said that behavioral testing, such as modified roadside sobriety tests, are preferable to bodily fluid testing for cannabis. The latter tests, though far more widely utilized, are invasive and typically focus on past use rather than evidence of current impairment, Earleywine said.

According to previous studies of on-road crash data, past use of cannabis (as indicated by the presence of marijuana metabolites in the urine) is not associated with an elevated risk of accident. By contrast, drivers who test positive for THC in the blood above 5 ng/ml (indicating recent use of pot) are typically associated with an elevated risk of accident compared to drivers who test negative for cannabis and/or test positive for levels of THC in the blood below 5 ng/ml.

A case-control study published last month in the Canadian Journal of Public Health reported that US drivers involved in fatal crashes who had trace levels of cannabis in their blood or urine were less likely to have engaged in risky driving behavior than drivers who tested positive for low levels of alcohol.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500 or Dale Gieringer, California NORML Coordinator, at (415) 563-5858. Full text of the study, "Roadside sobriety tests and attitudes toward a regulated cannabis market," is available online from the Harm Reduction Journal at: Harm Reduction Journal | Abstract | Roadside sobriety tests and attitudes toward a regulated cannabis market.

Source: NORML News (email)
Contact: [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif] norml@norml.org[/FONT]
Website: Marijuana Law Reform - NORML
 
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