We Save Lives...and Arbitrarily Punish Pot Smokers

We Save LivesWe Save LivesSince leaving Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which she founded in 1980, Candace Lightner has expressed appropriate skepticism about efforts to reduce the legal alcohol limit for operating a motor vehicle, first from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent, the cutoff favored by legislation that Congress enacted a decade ago, and now from  0.08 percent to 0.05 percent, the level recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in a recent report. Yet as president of a new organization called We Save Lives (WSL), Lightner supports "zero tolerance" laws for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). In states with such laws, WSL explains, "any detectable amount of a controlled substance, other than a medicine prescribed by a physician for that driver, in a driver's body fluids constitutes per se evidence of a 'drugged driving' violation." That rule, which makes no pretense of linking a certain drug level to unsafe driving, is really about punishing people for using intoxicants that politicians don't like rather than protecting the public from dangerously impaired drivers.

When Lightner talks about alcohol, her approach is much more nuanced. "I thought the emphasis on .08 laws was not where the emphasis should have been placed," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. "The majority of crashes occur with high blood-alcohol levels, the .15, .18, and .25 drinkers. Lowering the blood-alcohol concentration was not a solution to the alcohol problem." This week Lightner made similar comments about the NTSB proposal in an interview with U.S. News & World Report:

"I don't believe it is a practical long-term solution," Lightner told U.S. News. "You could go to 0.0 and that would save lives. You could go to a 40 mph speed limit and that would save lives, but you have to look at what's realistic."

The laws would likely save lives in the short-term due to media attention, she said, but ultimately "won't be enforced and will be a waste of time," distracting from what Lightner sees as the most significant highway safety issues: high-BAC drunk driving, drugged driving and distracted driving....

"Running around trying to arrest everyone at .05 is impractical," Lightner says. Police and prosecutors she spoke with said the lower limit would be "very hard to prosecute," in part because many of those drivers would pass a field sobriety test, leaving only subjective evidence of impairment.

But while Lightner rejects the idea of a 0.0 standard for alcohol, she thinks it is wise policy for illegal drugs. Bad as the DUID definition recently adopted by Colorado and Washington is, Lightner's definition is far worse. Those laws say a driver is drugged if his blood contains five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter (a presumption that is rebuttable in Colorado). The laws Lightner is pushing say a driver is drugged if his blood contains any detectable amount of THC. Under that standard, daily pot smokers will always be considered drugged, even when they are perfectly capable of driving safely, because they will always have residual levels of THC in their blood. This rule punishes regular cannabis consumers by making it impossible for them to drive legally, even in states that do not treat marijuana use as a crime.

The essentially punitive nature of this policy is underlined by the exception for drivers whose bodily fluids contain controlled substances that were prescribed by a doctor. This means, for example, that a driver with doctor-prescribed amphetamine in his blood is not considered impaired, while another driver with exactly the same amount of exactly the same drug in his blood is considered impaired if he got the pill from a friend or relative with a prescription. Even leaving aside the fact that a stimulant is apt to improve rather than impair driving ability, this distinction has no scientific basis. A little piece of paper signed by an M.D. cannot possibly make a driver less impaired. It therefore is totally irrelevant if Lightner's aim is to protect public safety. But giving a pass to drivers with prescriptions makes sense if the real aim is enforcing the government's arbitrary pharmacological dictates. "Our sole mission is to save lives by promoting responsible driving," WSL claims. The organization's support for zero-tolerance DUID laws shows that's not true. 

[Thanks to Allen St. Pierre for the tip.]

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  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    "in part because many of those drivers would pass a field sobriety test, leaving only subjective evidence of impairment."

    umm the field sobriety I believe is the subjective evidence, this would lead to there only being objective(or close to it) evidence.

    not that I agree with lowering it, just pointing that out.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Hey lady - Lightner up!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It's objective evidence that they have X amount of drug in their system. That isn't objective evidence that they are impaired.

  • Acosmist||

    Then there is no objective evidence, which makes it silly to talk about subjective evidence. It's just "evidence" if there's only one kind.

    Not that I agree at all that that's not objective evidence. If not, what is?!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    No, there is objective evidence. Can you perform whatever actions to the same standard as you can when you aren't on whatever drug? Then, objectively, you aren't impaired. If you can't, you are impaired.

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    What acom said, also it was in the context of prosecuting someone for a legal limit, the law would say .05 bac is illegal, not technically driving impaired. unless i'm wrong about the law.

  • Paul.||

    Lightner drinks. There's your answer.

  • Hugh Akston||

    My Glamourshots were way better than that.

  • Acosmist||

    A lower limit would not be hard to prosecute. It's a per se limit. You don't get to say that you walked the line just fine - you blew a .05, you get a DUI. What a bizarre thing to say.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    You don't have to blow if you pass the other tests first.

  • Acosmist||

    Then where is the "subjective evidence of impairment"? Why is it hard to prosecute, not hard to detect?

    What she said makes no sense at all.

  • Let Me Ride||

    In Colorado, it's not per se. There's a "rebuttable presumption" of guilt.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Illegal drugs have to be worse. Otherwise, they wouldn't be illegal.

  • Let Me Ride||

    I would estimate that this is the thinking of 80% of the population.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    "Running around trying to arrest everyone at .05 is impractical," Lightner says.

    Notice she says "impractical", so if it were practical, she wouldn't have a problem with it.

    And fuck here for not seeing the inevitability of reasonable illegal BAC levels leading to ridiculous levels that would cause you to fail for drinking 2 beers.

  • ||

    Depending on your body weight and the time you consumed those beers an their ABV, it's entirely possible you'd blow a .08

  • SeaCaptain(Yokeltarian)||

    "That rule, which makes no pretense of linking a certain drug level to unsafe driving"

    Um, I'm pretty sure that almost all drunk/high driving arrests are done after the driver was driving highly erratically.

  • Acosmist||

    Between checkpoints and the fact that almost everyone drives like shit all the time, are you sure?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Two words: DUI Checkpoint.

  • ||

    Not in Texas and several other states.

  • Zeb||

    Or speeding. Or being a young person driving after midnight.

  • ||

    Speeding and driving without proper paperwork, busted taillights etc is not "driving erratically," which is what someone will likely be pulled over for.

  • Hugh Akston||

    or DWB.

  • Dweebston||

    "Reckless" is such a subjective standard, especially when swerving within the lane or failing to signal adequately qualifies.

    And remember, convictions are only half the punishment. The arrest doesn't need to stand up in court. The defendant isn't getting back his night in jail, nor his attorney fees, nor (at least in New Mexico) will the charges be expunged if he's found innocent.

  • ||

    Or getting in an accident that was another driver's fault.

  • Brandon||

    Um, I'm pretty sure you're completely full of shit.

  • Zeb||

    Another thing is that alcohol is probably the worst of the popular drugs in terms of how it affects driving. Someone nodding off on heroin is probably worse, but that person is not too likely to decide to drive somewhere, but will just sit there drooling on himself. How about some studies on the actual effects of various drugs on driving before making blanket prohibitions based only on the general legality of a substance.

  • ||

    This is America! Take your logic somewhere else, Zeb!

  • Rich||

    We Save Lives (WSL)

    "Weasel"?! You can't make this shit up!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Um, I'm pretty sure that almost all drunk/high driving arrests are done after the driver was driving highly erratically.

    I'm pretty sure you're wrong.

  • PapayaSF||

    It's possible to test positive for opiates from eating a poppy seed bagel, or to test positive for pot from breathing deeply at a party or while driving past a field of hemp.

  • Fluffy||

    Don't you guys get it?

    It's as clear as day.

    The slaveholder lobby sees the marijuana writing on the wall. They know broad state level legalization is coming. And although they only incarcerate a relatively small number of pot smokers, they arrest a shit load of them.

    That arrest stream keeps employed a lot of cops, prosecutors, judges, court staff, probation officers, and drug test company staff.

    If you cut that arrest stream off, somebody's going to get the bright idea to save money by firing a ton of cops, prosecutors, judges, court staff, probation officers, and drug test company staff.

    And so the slaveholder lobby is reacting predictably - they're floundering about for a replacement arrest stream.

    If you stop them from arresting a horde of blacks, hispanics, and lower class whites for pot possession, no problem - they'll just arrest them for DUI. The 0.05 standard and the THC standards make no sense in any practical terms unless you start looking at them as pretenses for arrest, and for generating a steady stream of human chattel to keep state-paid parasites employed.

  • ||

    That rule, which makes no pretense of linking a certain drug level to unsafe driving, is really about punishing people for using intoxicants that politicians don't like rather than protecting the public from dangerously impaired drivers

    Isn't that what MADD was always about in the first place? The drinking age advocates and the anti-drunk-driving crusaders are the intellectual heirs of the temperance movement and the prohibitionists. They are literally an extension of the same puritanical impulse. "Mothers" is just slang for "Church Ladies".

  • Acosmist||

    Yeah, MADD is just prohibitionist. If there is some sensible group out there, MADD ain't it.

  • WomSom||

    I do indeed like where that is going.

    www.Anony-Web.tk

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