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March 2004
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Congress is driving me crazy.

LastOneSpeaks and TalkLeft have been covering the stupid new bills being proposed for drugged driving testing.
From NORML:

Please Tell Congress To Identify Impaired Drivers, Not Marijuana Smokers. Urge Your Congressman To Reject H.R. 3907 And H.R. 3922

NORML needs your help convincing Congress to reject a pair of bills that would criminally punish marijuana smokers for “drugged driving” simply if inactive marijuana metabolites are detected in their bodily fluids – even if the individual is neither under the influence nor impaired to drive.

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.

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.”

These bills represent an all out federal assault on the marijuana smoking community. Because inactive marijuana metabolites (inert compounds indicative of past drug use) remain detectable in the blood, and particularly urine, for days and sometimes weeks after past use, this legislation seeks to define sober drivers as if they were intoxicated. Someone who smokes marijuana is impaired as a driver at most for a few hours; certainly not for days or weeks. To treat all marijuana smokers as if they are impaired, even when the drug’s effects have long worn off, is illogical and unfair.

Fortunately not everybody is supporting this legislation. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Porter’s home paper) comes this scathing criticism:

But there has not been even the slightest effort by supporters of this law to present any scientific nexus between the zero-tolerance standard Rep. Porter imposed in Nevada and the average driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Even putting aside such rational objections, by getting Washington involved in another effort to blackmail the states, Rep. Porter betrays the very principles for which he and his party supposedly stand….

Every state punishes motorists who drive while demonstrating actual signs of impairment. That is a righteous cause. But mandating that the states adopt standards — potentially with no identifiable relationship to actual impairment, at that — is not the role of Washington politicians or bureaucrats … and Mr. Porter’s constituents should let him know that.

Other important figures have also shown reluctance:

“We believe that as a basic principle states need to enact laws that meet their own needs,” said Cheye Calvo, a transportation policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies, goes further, advising its members not to adopt drug-impaired driving laws at all for the time being.

Wendy Hamilton, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said her group supports efforts to curb drug-impaired driving. But she cautioned it is difficult to set an across-the-board standard for all illegal drugs when they may affect driving differently – or not at all.

“There needs to be more research,” Hamilton said.

I’ve already given a fair amount of detail on marijuana and driving on this blog.
Intelligent criticism, however, is unlikely to deter our House of Representatives, which could very likely pass these bills, unless everybody gets active to stop them. Take a moment now.

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