#288 Please Tell Congress To Identify Impaired Drivers

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2004
Subject: #288 Please Tell Congress To Identify Impaired Drivers


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #288 Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Yesterday the Cincinnati Post published an OPED and an Editorial,
below, about a new bill before Congress. The NORML website describes
the bill as follows:

H.R. 3922, sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of legislators
including Reps. Robert Portman (R-OH), Sander Levin (D-MI), Steven
LaTourette (R-OH), Mark Souder (R-IN) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), seeks to
impose so-called “model” DUID legislation upon all 50 states –
demanding they enact statutes sanctioning anyone who operates a motor
vehicle “while any detectable amount of a controlled substance is
present in the person’s body, as measured in the person’s blood,
urine, saliva, or other bodily substance.”

And another is a bill aimed at the same target, also as described by

H.R. 3907, sponsored by Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV), demands that state
legislatures amend their DUID (driving under the influence of drugs)
to enact mandatory minimum penalties for anyone convicted of driving
under the influence of illegal drugs. Under the proposal, states have
until 2006 to pass and enforce DUID laws “approved by the
Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,”
or lose portions of their federal highway funding.

The OPED below clearly points out the problem with these bills, and
the Editorial gives additional reasons for taking action.

Need More Facts? See:

Cannabis and Driving http://www.drugwardistortions.org/distortion12.htm


References on Drugs and Driving http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/driving/contents.htm

Related news clippings may be found at



http://www.mapinc.org/find?224 (Cannabis and Driving)



Write a LTEs to the papers in your state about this issue. This is a
good example of a topic that may result in a printed letter without
the need to tie it to any other specific item the papers may have printed.

To find your state/local newspapers, go to MAP’s media links page


Using the ‘List by Area” dropdown find and bring up the list of
newspapers in your state and their LTE contact. Note those with the
higher numbers of Clippings or Excerpts as this tends to indicate a
higher interest by the paper in our issues, and thus should be your
first targets.

Also consider sending them both the OPED and the Editorial. Ask your
papers to please print similar editorial page items about these bills.

And last, but not least, let your members of congress know about how
you feel about this issue. If you can, visit with the members, or
visit their state/local offices as telling them or their staff
directly always shows a deep concern, stronger than any other message.

You can use NORML’s Take Action page to send your concern to your
Member of Congress. Just go to this link, personalize the message with
your own thoughts and facts, and send. It is easy and fast:


Thanks for your effort and support.

It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


email messages, etc.)

Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent
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E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org if you are not
subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others
can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit.

This is _Very_ Important as it is one very effective way of gauging
our impact and effectiveness.

Subscribing to the Sent LTE list (sentlte@mapinc.org) will help you to
review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or
approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing

To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm
and/or http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form



Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2004 The Cincinnati Post
Contact: postedits@cincypost.com
Website: http://www.cincypost.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/87
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation
in Washington, DC.


Imagine if it was against the law to drive home after consuming a
single glass of wine at dinner. Now imagine it was against the law to
do so after having consumed a single glass of wine two weeks ago.

Sound absurd? No more so than newly proposed Congressional legislation
by Ohio Rep. Rob Portman mandating that each state enact laws
sanctioning anyone who operates a motor vehicle “while any detectable
amount of a controlled substance is present in the person’s body, as
measured in the person’s blood, urine, saliva, or other bodily substance.”

While the expressed purpose of this legislation, the “Drug Impaired
Driving Enforcement Act of 2004,” is to target and remove
drug-impaired drivers from our nation’s roadways, the reality is that
this poorly worded proposal would do little to improve public safety.
Rather, it would falsely categorize sober drivers as “intoxicated”
simply if they had consumed an illicit substance, particularly
marijuana, some days or weeks earlier.

A case in point. John and Jane Doe attend a party. John enjoys a glass
of wine while Jane takes a puff from a marijuana cigarette. The next
day, John and Jane are pulled over. John is given a breathalyzer test
and tests negative for alcohol. Jane is asked to submit to a urine
test and tests positive for marijuana. Jane is then arrested for
“driving under the influence of drugs,” despite the fact that any
impairment she experienced from smoking marijuana would have worn off
hours earlier.

That’s because Portman’s proposal, so-called “zero tolerance” per se
legislation, presumes individuals guilty of driving while intoxicated
simply if trace levels of a controlled substances or even drug
metabolites (inactive compounds indicative of past drug use) are
detected in their bodily fluids — even if the individual is neither
under the influence nor impaired to drive. For anyone who enjoys an
occasional toke from a marijuana cigarette, this news ought to be
especially unsettling, as marijuana metabolites are often detectable
in a person’s urine for days or even weeks after the drug is consumed.

Aside from being poorly drafted, this unfunded federal mandate from
Congress is unnecessary. All states already have DUID (driving under
the influence of drugs) statutes on the books. Most are “effect-based”
laws that forbid drivers to operate a motor vehicle if they are either
“under the influence” of a controlled substance, or if they have been
rendered “incapable of driving safely” because of their use of an
illicit drug. This is a multidisciplinary standard that focuses on the
totality of circumstances and rightly punishes motorists who drive
while impaired from having recently used illicit drugs.

There is no need for additional legislation, especially from the
federal government.

While driving under the influence of illicit and licit substances is
obviously a serious issue, Portman’s proposal neither addresses the
problem nor offers a legitimate solution. “Zero tolerance” laws are
neither a safe nor sensible way to identify impaired drivers; they are
an attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws in order to identify and
prosecute recreational drug users.

At a minimum, laws targeting drug drivers should identify “parent
drugs” (in other words, cocaine or THC), not simply inactive drug
metabolites. Further, these laws must have scientifically sound
cut-off levels that correlate drug concentration to impairment of
performance, similar to the 0.08 BAC standard that now exists for
drunk driving. There must also be assurances that the laws mandate any
and all drug testing to be performed and confirmed by accredited state
labs using uniform procedures and standards.

Until these measures are in place, it is premature and illogical for
Congress to strong-arm states to adopt this unnecessary and unsound
“zero tolerance” drugged driving policy.


The Editorial:

Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2004 The Cincinnati Post
Contact: postedits@cincypost.com
Website: http://www.cincypost.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/87


U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, who has established himself as a national
leader in the war on drugs, recently opened a new frontier. He and
several others in the U.S. House introduced legislation aimed at
boosting state enforcement of laws against drug impaired driving.

The broad goal of getting drug-impaired drivers off the road is
obviously one that should command broad support. And this is a
generally restrained push in that direction.

But there are legitimate objections to certain of the bill’s
assumptions — and every reason in the world to suspect that what’s
being touted today as a carrot to help states will eventually turn
into a stick used to punish those that don’t climb onto the wagon.

Proponents of the bill cites statistics by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration which suggest that illegal drugs (often
in conjunction with alcohol) are used by between 10 percent and 22
percent of drivers involved in crashes. Portman says that nearly 11
million people drove under the influence of illegal drugs in 2002. And
there is no shortage of horrific local examples about what can happen
when motorists drive under the influence of marijuana, cocaine and

In nine states, the mere presence of illegal drug residues in the body
is regarded as evidence of drug-impaired driving, regardless of
concentration or whether there’s evidence the motorists ability to
control a vehicle really was compromised. The bill acknowledges,
however, that the technology for identifying illegal drugs in the body
is inadequate, and authorizes federal grants to develop it.

The bill would also:

. Authorize grants to train police officers and prosecutors about drug
impaired driving.

. Require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to develop model
legislation for use by states.

. Support research into impaired driving — and the dissemination of
results to judges, prosecutors, policymakers and others.

. Require annual reports to Congress on what states are doing about
drug-impaired driving.

The bill proposes a modest boost in funding for such purposes, to $2
million annually from the $1.2 million being spent now.

Some advocacy groups (see the guest column on the opposite page)
complain the bill promotes a double standard by criminalizing trace
amounts that can stay in the body for days after any incapacitating
effect has worn off.

The bigger concern, we submit, is Washington’s intention over the long

State motor vehicle laws are not properly a federal issue. You don’t
see federal prosecutors handling drunken driving cases before federal
judges, and Washington isn’t picking up the cost to incarcerate or
treat folks convicted of DUI. But that didn’t stop Congress from
threatening to withhold federal highway funds from states that refused
to lower their DUI blood-alcohol levels to .08 percent. Nor has
Washington seen fit to reimburse state and local governments for the
costs of what was functionally a mandate.

There is every reason to expect the same pattern will eventually play
out with drug-impaired driving. At a time when most states, for
financial and policy reasons, have decided that drug abusers don’t
belong in prison, and when casual marijuana use has effectively been
decriminalized, we might well see Congress turning the screws to get
more people into the criminal justice system via driving laws — and
sticking state and local governments with the tab.

If the states want to put drunken and drug-impaired driving on equal
footing — genuinely equal footing — fine. Punish behavior — that
is, those who drive while impaired — and direct most resources at the
alcoholics and addicts who are by far the greatest risk to the
motoring public. But the federal role here ought to be quite limited.
Besides, a government as hideously indebted as this one doesn’t need
to be looking for new spending agendas.


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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Focus Alert Specialist