Jelani Gibson, content lead for NJ Cannabis Insider, and a reporter for NJ.com and The Star-Ledger, talks about a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision that puts new limits on how a controversial method used to determine if someone is driving while high can be used in court.
Far more popular than any politician, cannabis legalization is still being sold to American voters on a wobbly raft of lofty and discursive promises, uneasily lashed together with sinews of money.
Several years into the experiment, cannabis is absolutely a multi-billion-dollar industry, but legal weed hasn’t fixed systemic racism, cured the ills of the drug war, or democratized business opportunities. Legalization hasn’t even guaranteed Americans reliable access to legal cannabis, in the states that have legalized.
Q: How will law enforcement (in a legal weed world) conduct sobriety tests on drivers? (Joseph B.)
Great question, Joseph. This is one of the major issues that's kept some legislators from backing legal weed.
The short answer is: There is no sobriety test — at least not the kind of test you're probably thinking of, like an alcohol breath test.
It’s a breathalyzer device developed by Hound Labs in Northern California. It’s portable and can run tests for both alcohol and marijuana. It just may change the minds of many of those reluctant police officers, including in Pennsylvania as lawmakers consider several proposals to legalize recreational marijuana use.
Intrinsic Capital Partners, a Philadelphia growth equity fund, is so convinced of a “potential massive market” for the device that it led a $30 million Series D financing round to bring it to market in 2020.
Determining if a driver has too much alcohol in his or her system is now easily measured. But with more states approving the sale and use of recreational marijuana, knowing whether a driver is impaired with that drug—or other substances—is much more difficult to prove scientifically.
NJTV News reports on the legislative struggles to get recreational marijuana legalized in the Garden State, including the criminal justice system implications. NJ lawmakers recently called off a vote to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana that would have also expunged the records of thousands of residents convicted of possession. At the same time, law enforcement concerns remain over how drugged driving will be detected.
And for the faint of heart, it's easy to find a place to hide when so many sloppy arguments are flying around in defense of the status quo.
More car crashes, if you twist the data so hard it screams. Children lured into the abyss, as if they don't have access to weed today. Edibles that dangerously turbo-charge the high, as if it's impossible to mark the dosage.
A bill currently pending in the New Jersey Assembly, A2776, would establish a per se standard for marijuana in DWI cases. This bill, if enacted, would probably present both benefits and drawbacks for New Jersey DWI defendants.
Authors reported that the use of cannabis, absent the simultaneous use of other drugs or alcohol, creates “only a fraction of the risks associated with driving at the legal 0.08 BAC threshold, let alone the much higher risks associated with higher levels of alcohol.” By contrast, they report that “the simultaneous use of alcohol and cannabis is linked to higher levels of driver impairment than either alone” – a finding that is consistent with much of the available literature.
Dr David Nathan, Founder and Board President of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, and a guest on my show, commented on the idea that traffic fatalities would rise of marijuana were legalized. "The issue is it's not just about cannabis but about the use of all drugs with people on the roads, we've gotta find better ways to keep people on the roads safe", said Nathan.
As Nathan noted, "The question of drugged driving is one that I regard as being one of the most serious ones, because it's on that we don't have a simple answer to."