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Philip Dawdy, award-winning journalist and cannabis political activist, gets personal about the I-502 DUI provision

I defy any 502 supporter to show me data indicating public safety hazards posed on Washington’s roads by so-called “stoned driving.” I’ll be waiting a long time because the problem simply doesn’t exist or law enforcement officials would be screaming about it from the top of Mount Rainier. – Philip Dawdy

I wanted to be a “Yes” on I-502, but, in the end, I flipped to “No” over its THC DUI provision. My reasons are simple: I’m an American, I need to drive a car to earn a living and I simply will not have my freedom of mobility restricted by an arbitrary, unscientific, automatic DUI pegged at 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of whole blood.

What’s more, I defy any 502 supporter to show me data indicating public safety hazards posed on Washington’s roads by so-called “stoned driving.” I’ll be waiting a long time because the problem simply doesn’t exist or law enforcement officials would be screaming about it from the top of Mount Rainier.

The science around what level of active THC metabolite in a human’s bloodstream equals impairment is inconclusive and I’ve spent a lot of time with the published literature on the subject over the last year trying to find answers. Even scientists cannot agree among themselves on this matter. New Approach Washington, sponsors of 502, cite one study on their website that claims crash risk doubles at 5 nanograms and above, but you need to understand that one study does not science make (the scientific method calls for replicated findings) and the study itself is based upon crash data from Australia.

That’s a different country with a different driving culture where people drive on the other side of the road and the 502 folks want to apply it to Washington citizens? That’s capricious at best.

But what really flipped me to the Land of “No” were a series of three studies by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Simply put, they put daily cannabis users in a locked facility, monitored their abstinence from cannabis use for either seven days or thirty days (depending on the study) and took active THC metabolite readings from participants.

What they found was that active metabolite remained in peoples’ systems far longer than anyone ever thought (anywhere from one week to four weeks) and that some study participants would test positive for active THC one day, negative the next day and, then, positive a day after that. In the last of the studies, researchers concluded that measuring active THC metabolite did not correlate to how recently someone used cannabis and if they were impaired or intoxicated.

We cannot have a standard for DUIs that even federal researchers find meaningless, especially since peoples’ freedom and ability to make a living is at stake.

– Philip Dawdy


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