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Hawaii lawmakers ask how much marijuana is OK while driving

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  • STAR-ADVERTISER ARCHIVE / MARCH 10, 2010

    Processed and dried marijuana buds are seen with a smoking pipe in this file photo.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Plants grow at the home of Jeremy Nickle, in his backyard in Honolulu on Feb. 17. Nickel, who owns Hawaiian Holy Smokes and is applying for a dispensary, grows a variety of strains and has a medical marijuana card.

Hawaii lawmakers are asking how much marijuana a driver can safely consume before getting behind the wheel of a car.

It’s an issue they want to tackle now that Hawaii is setting up medical marijuana dispensaries, so Rep. Cindy Evans and 15 other lawmakers introduced a resolution asking the state Department of Health to study whether a person can safely drive while under the influence.

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in accidents, including fatal ones, but the role marijuana plays in those accidents is often unclear because it can remain in the bloodstream for days and it’s often combined with alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says marijuana use impairs cognitive functions, lane tracking and other driving-related skills.

“I think that it’s really important that we do this now,” Evans said. “Hopefully this is the beginning of the discussion.”

For drunk driving, there’s a nationally recognized level of impairment, which is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams per millileter. But there’s no federal rule or widespread consensus on what’s an acceptable limit for driving under the influence of drugs.

Hawaii law bans people from driving under the influence of a drug that impairs their ability to drive, but there isn’t a set threshold for how much marijuana — medically prescribed or not — is acceptable in the blood stream.

Several states have passed laws specifying how much marijuana in the blood stream is acceptable while driving, but set different limits for how much THC — the main psychoactive ingredient of cannibus — in the blood would be considered driving under the influence of drugs. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Colorado, Montana and Washington set the limit at 5 nanograms per millileter of blood, while Nevada and Ohio went with the lower 2 nanograms. Other states provide an exemption for medical marijuana patients.

The state Department of Health opposed the resolution, saying the department doesn’t have the capacity to study the complicated question, especially because the resolution didn’t include funding. The department’s director, Virginia Pressler, said in written testimony that The National Institute on Drug Abuse has been studying this issue for many years and hasn’t been able to establish a recommended level for driving.

Despite the opposition, the House Committee on Transportation passed the resolution Monday, sending it to the Committee on Health to keep the discussion going, Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Aquino said.

“It’s here, so we just wanted to make sure that we have some sort of scientific, some sort of data-driven study to being done to address this,” Aquino said.

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    • It totally depends on whether you are driving a 2016 “Ford Mustang GT Shelby Super Snake” or a late-model “Yugo”. In either event, I am volunteering myself as part of a Test-Drive to see how much one can inhale and still stay on the road. See you on the H-2/H-1 on your Morning-Commute! (“Pedal-to-the Metal”! Beep-Beep!..)

  • What a rhetorical question. Stoners are ALREADY driving while under the influence of weed. I’m pretty sure many of these stoners are extremely stoned, too. So how many automobile accidents can be attributed solely to marijuana use? None? Well, why ask the question, then?

    • Marihuana causes hallucinations. Nobody who uses it should be allowed to drive! Medical M. users should have to turn in their drivers license. That would clean out that fake nest.

      • Hallucinations from marijuana ?? Brah, what planet are you from ?? Oh yeah, the planet of “No Can Spell Correctly” !!!
        Marijuana causes as many hallucinations as alcohol. In other words, there aren’t ANY !!! You also, probably, believe abstinence is the best birth control too, I bet ……..

  • Rep. Cindy Evans (Big Island) S. Kohala is asking how much marijuana a driver can safely consume before getting behind the wheel of a car ?

    Should a driver, of a moving vehicle, be allowed to consume ANY marijuana at all?
    She wants to treat marijuana as liquor and be able to measure it in the bloodstream ?

    Didn’t the legislators just override a regulation/law that mandated that an alleged ‘drunken-drivers’ must take a breathalyzer/blood test by a police officer to measure the alcohol content in their bloodstream? If they refuse they get their license suspended and fined? It was ruled ‘unconstitutional’.

    Next, law maker will ask how much prescription Quaaludes (methaqualone)can one take safely before driving a motor vehicle.

    Any stimulant has an affect on a persons motor skills. Each person is different and reacts differently given liquor, marijuana, Quaaludes or even cough medicine.

    I’m glad Director Virginia Pressler saw the light.

    • Yobo, right on with your post. The Construction Industry has a zero tolerance marijuana level. Why, lives are a stake. Driving under the influence of marijuana will now find many DUI to be marijuana. What kind of fine and jail time will be placed on DUI-marijuana?

      • kuro–you make a good point, I would go a step farther—what is the maximum amount for lawmakers on duty??? The only occupation, other than entertainment, that doesn’t require drug testing.

      • kuroiwaj – Don’t you wonder about our elected officials ? Well, she (Rep. Cindy Evans) represents (Big Island) S. Kohala. Same island as Billy Kanoi.

        Legislators/council members also :

        Allow motorcyclist/mopeds to ride w/ out a helmet.

        Allow mopeds/motorcycles to modify their exhaust systems causing loud/excruciating noise. Don’t know what a decibel meter is. Neither does the captain of HPD.

        Allow people to ride in the back of an open pickup truck speeding down the freeway like screaming banshees – Then pass a seatbelt law making sure of the safety of the occupants in a car.

        Or the best one yet – Chair of the Lawmaker committee not hearing a bill on ‘TERM LIMITS’ for lawmakers.

  • Most marijuana smokers drive very slowly and carefully unlike alcohol drinkers. Marijuana smokers tend to get mildly paranoid. However, I would agree that smoking just a little marijuana is safe, but much beyond that I wouldn’t recommend driving. I don’t smoke marijuana.

    • Way back when i used M, even the day after I would at times suddenly notice that I had been driving slower and slower and the after i noticed it pushed on the gas pedal. Also sometimes I started to drift to dream away and had to re-focus on what i was doing – driving. It can be dangerous – the attention suffers and registered or not users should turn in their driving license.

  • I think the big problem is to develop indices that correlate blood levels of THC with specific driving impairment. This is something that will have to be demonstrated in court and I’m not aware of much current research in this area.

      • Gaze nystagmus, use horizontal for Alcohol. Been around for 35 years, part of field test. Now officers are taught another form of nystagmus to determine type of drug (possibly) that caused impairment. Still required to submit to testing, blood…. refuse still get arrested and Driver’s Revocation it tagged along with OUI charge. WSU has grant to develope device for detection. If successful, they also have copyright.

    • People can drive safely while “under the influence” of pain relief narcotics such as Demerol, OxyContin, etc. Any by “under the influence,” I mean using it safely as prescribed according to your physician’s orders. The problem only arises if you’re under the influence to the point where you are physically and/or mentally impaired.

      • I don’t think so, if the drug has warning of operation of vehicle, heavy equipment….. there may be an issue under the current law, OUI, which covers prescription drugs. At Federal government, we do random testing, if they tell us that they have been taking a prescription drug AND it has operator warning, we send them home, not for for duty.

  • Why don’t we just give our Esteemed law Makers a Big Bag of Weed and some rolling papers & let them find out for themselves!!Ha!ha!ha! These so called:Hawaii lawmakers are acting like they never smoked a joint in their life !!And many of them did, indeed smoke it While driving….everybody did it!! So with my vast & previous experience of the past. I recommend to treat Marijuana,the same way as you would treat Drinking and Driving!! IMUA

    • If an officer smells it on your breath like alcohol……Here’s a ticket for you Bro! Also the officer would require them to “Park it” and have someone drive you home! simple Right!

      • “Moi”, Moi, Moi… You have been reading too many Lee Cataluna articles… “If an officer smells it on your breath” (?)… Too Silly…

  • If you were to test everyone in the food service industry for marijuana, most restaurants would have to shut down. If the state were serious about driving under the influence they’d randomly pull over every 2nd car on the road at 2am

  • Wow we sure have some STUPID elected officials. Go and talk with Colorado or California. You people are NOT reinventing the wheel. hahaha

    Clueless and INCOMPETENCE in paradise

    • Wazdat – Don’t you wonder about our elected officials ? Well, she (Rep. Cindy Evans) represents (Big Island) S. Kohala. Same island as Billy Kanoi.

      Legislators/council members also :

      Allow motorcyclist/mopeds to ride w/ out a helmet.

      Allow mopeds/motorcycles to modify their exhaust systems causing loud/excruciating noise. Don’t know what a decibel meter is. Neither does the captain of HPD.

      Allow people to ride in the back of an open pickup truck speeding down the freeway like screaming banshees – Then pass a seatbelt law making sure of the safety of the occupants in a car.

      Or the best one yet – Chair of the Lawmaker committee not hearing a bill on ‘TERM LIMITS’ for lawmakers.

  • Funny to read all these comments. Like the Donald does so well, no one has answered the question but have comically skirted around it. What’s the answer folks, a number using a breath device? A number as a result from blood tests? No number? A walkability test? Don’t laugh, I for one, would like to know.

    • Almost certainly, the people who want to smoke already do so and are driving on the road. That the state is now going to legalize the sale of marijuana to patients with a permit is not going to increase the amount of stoned people on the road or increase the level of their intoxication.
      If stoned driving was a big problem like drunk driving, we would know it by now.

      • You are right bigger problem after alcohol is people driving impaired while taking a prescription drug, disregarding warnings, or mixing medications. Officers now taught gaze nystagmus as part of field test. Does not mean you will get arrested….. call someone, taxi are options. Most are old people and cops don’t like baby sitting.

    • Some national news organization did an expose and tested some Colorado weed users and the effect on their driving. It turns out the person who used weed long term for some illness was basically non-impaired after smoking weed then driving on a test course, while the occasional user who smoked weed and then drove was seriously impaired. Therefore there is NO way for Hawaii legislatures to try to set some level of THC in the blood as “safe” to drive and therefore it should be zero tolerance and if someone needs to smoke weed for “medicinal purposes” they better not drive and if they drive erratic and have THC detected, they will be charged. Same thing when someone takes cough syrup with Codeine where the warning label clearly states do not take the medication and drive. Why is State of Hawaii state legislatures trying to encourage weed use? All this legislation to add legal “distributors” of weed or trying to validate having some level of THC in their system if they drive impaired does not help people who are ill and might benefit with smoking weed. What Kalani English and the rest are doing are trying to backdoor the acceptance of recreational weed use. Most of Hawaii’s children already are struggling intellectually, emotionally and financially to become responsible adults, adding acceptance of weed is a BAD thing. Just like the acceptance of betel nut in the Western Pacific like in Micronesia and creating a generation of zombies who cannot keep up with today’s changing world.

  • I remember a study that showed that a little marijuana actually improves a person’s driving ability but witht more, that improvement rapidly goes away and effect becomes like alcohol.

  • A marijuana user is going to use enough to get high or more. A person who is high on drugs is not fit to drive. 2 + 2 says that a person who used marijuana and a blood test shows some minimum amount (say 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood) is driving under the influence.

    The Hawaii DOH does not have any expertise to determine how much is acceptable to drive so use the minimum used in Nevada and Ohio.

    Of course this only applies to those with medical marijuana cards.

  • Yea..don’t you just hate it when you’re driving on the freeway and forget where you’re going. Passed your exit before you realized you were supposed to get off eh?
    Well then, you may have smoked too much. Next time you’ll know better right!

  • No no no…lawmakers were not asking because they wanted to know for the public’s sake, they asked the question so they know how much “THEY” can safely get away with….it was an innocent honest question!

  • If their concern is really for highway safety, instead of just opposing marijuana, why not test for prescription medications that impair driving ability?

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