Oklahoma Becomes Third State This Year To Approve Unscientific Per Se Limits For Cannabis

Oklahoma Becomes Third State This Year To Approve Unscientific Per Se Limits For Cannabis

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has signed legislation, House Bill 1441, into law that criminalizes drivers from operating a motor vehicle if they have any detectable amount of THC and/or its inactive metabolites in their blood, saliva, or urine.

Under such internal possession statutes, known as zero tolerance per se laws, a motorist who tests positive for the presence of such compounds is guilty per se (in fact) of a criminal traffic safety violation, regardless of whether or not there exist supporting evidence that the defendant was behaviorally impaired by such compounds.

Residual, low levels of THC may remain present in the blood of occasional consumers for several hours after past use and for several days in habitual consumers — long after any behavior-inducing effects of the substance have worn off. The inert carboxy-THC metabolite, a commonly screened for byproduct of THC, possesses a longer half-life in blood and also may be present in the urine of daily cannabis consumers for several weeks, or even months, after past use.

Oklahoma will become the 11th state to impose such a strict liability per se standard once the law takes effect on October 1, 2013. It is the third state this year to amend its traffic safety laws to include either per se thresholds or presumptive limits for cannabinoids.

Ten additional states – Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin – already impose zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites.

Five states impose non-zero-tolerant per se thresholds for cannabinoids in blood: Montana (5ng/ml — the new law, HB 168, signed in April, takes effect on October 1, 2013), Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml).

Last month, Colorado lawmakers also approved legislation, effective as of July 1, 2013, stating that the presence of THC/blood levels above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.”

However, according to the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA): “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

In addition, a 2013 academic review of per se drugged driving laws and their impact on road safety found “no evidence that per se drugged driving laws reduce traffic fatalities.”

NORML argues that it is inadvisable to infer behavioral impairment based on the presence of cannabinoid levels alone — a position that is outlined herehere, and in public testimony here.

  • Robert

    Achtung! sieg heil Oklahoma!!

  • Paul

    Wonderful! Now people can potentially get impaired driving convictions on their record even without that pesky technicality of “actually being impaired”. Sour grapes, OK.

    That said… what’s the level of probable cause necessary to force a driver to pee into a cup? I’d like to think that it’d at least require more than a motorist having a “legalize it” bumper sticker.

  • Deirdre O’Meara Humphrey

    I’m 85. I’ve seen a lot of progress in my lifetime. Recently I’ve seen us zooming backward at a furious rate.

  • Mike

    Paul wrote:

    “I’d like to think that it’d at least require more than a motorist having a “legalize it” bumper sticker.”

    Nope, probably not, as the cops are gonna believe you’re obviously impaired
    if you think you have freedom of speech in Oklahoma or make any other
    attempt to exercise your civil rights.

    At least we know where Woody Guthrie got his cojones from after spending a childhood in a place like OK.

    Yeah, any honest court would strike down any testing that doesn’t directly measure impairment.

    But
    we have a real shortage of honest judges in this country. Most think
    their job is to grease the skids for the gov’t’s case, while doing
    little to ensure a defendant’s rights are respected.

  • MSLGWCEO

    Yes, by all means, criminalize users. After all, Mary Fallin has received large sums of money from her “Prisons For Profit” donors to her campaign.

    All this does is “feed the Beast.”