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THC driving test on HDNet shows marijuana impairs, but does it prove anything? (VIDEO)

hdnet thc driving.JPG
Video below.
On Monday, we previewed HDNet World Report's driving test of medical marijuana patients.

The full report aired last night; watch it below. But while it's a respectable piece of work, the final results, which tilt toward the argument that MMJ patients shouldn't drive after medicating, raise more questions than they answer due in part to the small number of participants and the way in which the test was conducted.

The package begins with stoner movie clips from Cheech and Chong and others before rolling into interviews with the likes of attorney Sean McAllister, who has no problem with a per se THC limit from a philosophical standpoint but believes current science hasn't established the sort of bright-line standard in use to determine alcohol impairment.

The report also notes that the Colorado legislature killed a THC driving bill earlier this month because representatives weren't convinced that the proposed 5 nanogram per milliliter of blood standard effectively demonstrated impairment -- particularly in light of a blood test involving Westword medical marijuana reviewer William Breathes, who registered at nearly triple the limit when sober due to the way THC lingers in a user's system.

The second half of the report concentrates on the test itself. In our preview piece, HDNet executive producer Dennis O'Brien said four people took part in the experiment, which required them to use a driving simulator while sober, then do so again after medicating; in both cases, they were observed by a drug recognition expert. However, only three individuals made the final cut -- and one of them didn't medicate prior to his second try on the simulator, as a way of establishing that the expert, who'd been told that all three smoked, wouldn't see marijuana impairment when none existed.

The person who steered clear of marijuana entirely passed the test both times. Not so the two patients who medicated. One of them got into a virtual, car-flipping accident the second time around, while the other had a couple of incidents when she drifted out of her lane. In both instances, the expert considered them impaired.

Problem is, the test appears to have been conducted immediately after consumption -- so it doesn't provide any insight about whether time might diminish impairment. Moreover, the viewer isn't told how much marijuana the test takers consumed or its potency, leaving the inaccurate perception that all cannabis is the same. And even though the difference in post-medication driving results involving the two marijuana smokers -- lane drifts versus a car flip -- seems significant, the determination that both were impaired seems to more or less shrug off the distinction.

The report concludes with the claim that people on both sides of the driving-on-medical-marijuana issue believe more testing is needed. However, that may not be true for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, whose attack on the THC driving bill's death, which is mentioned in the HDNet offering, suggests that his mind is well and truly made up on the subject.

See the entire segment below.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: THC driving limits sponsor voted for one standard, prefers different one."

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22 comments
Rant about bad day
Rant about bad day

This article is really great. This includes lot of interesting concepts which is really excellent. 

Eva Enns
Eva Enns

I am a young person, so maybe someone more, er, experienced, in this lifetime can tell me if the American media and policy makers have always completely disregarded the scientific method and intellectually honest methodologies in this way.  Or is this a recent thing?  Should we be offering more science and philosophy curriculum in schools?  Jeez

Kelly
Kelly

First off, driving a simulator is not the same as driving a car. It may be similar but it's not what one is used to. People also get used to THEIR car. They know how it works and what it takes to drive it. Second, there are too many factors that play into the whole situation. Some people are better drivers than others to begin with. Also, people who have been smoking marijuana longer are more used to the affects of THC. I have several friends that use medical marijuana that I would trust to drive me anywhere regardless of their THC level. Emotions are another factor. If someone is happy and calm, they are bound to drive better than someone who "had a bad day" or didnt get enough sleep. The whole point is THC effects everyone differently. For example, the man in the video who crashed, he may not be as used to smoking as the woman who has for three years. Yes, she made some mistakes as well but as far as I am concerned people who arent driving "under the influence" might do the exact same. This is just another waste of money and time  that wont do any good to prove anything. Like I said, too many factors.   

Publius Ceasar
Publius Ceasar

To be honest, all I care about is that no cop will have the right to pull a blood test from me on his own whim. Regardless of whether I medicate or not, having a cop stick a needle in me on the spot is NOT a viable option.

Woah
Woah

I think if I got into an accident of someone who wasn't "impaired" at all, I'd just think they were a bad driver. (provided it was their fault of course) If I got into an accident with someone who just had a joint, I would probably automatically assume it was the marijuanas impact, which in the end it might not be- they could just be another bad driver.I think more extensive studies need to be done in order for them to really make an impact to me. Because, if this doesn't affect drivers I don't want to falsely accuse someone because I assume they were impaired.

guest
guest

3:41, car is driving on High street

Christopher
Christopher

This test is nonsense. Three subjects and one expert? There is actual peer reviewed science on the subject. Google U of Iowa  marijuana driving study. 

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I never get behind the wheel unless I take a few tokes.  This has been going on for 20 years now, and never have  I caused an accident or gotten a ticket.  Smoking weed and driving only makes me safer behind the wheel and certainly not impaired.  Test complete!

Patient
Patient

A joint is a lot for a person to use at one time. I'm guessing it is a lot more than these people are used to consuming. A few puffs of the good stuff is all it should take.

Sean Mc did a good job.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

Before they can make a law against it, there needs to be a DEFINITIVE test if someone is impaired at that moment.  While people do it, I do not support driving under any heavy medication.

Dfctv1
Dfctv1

I think the big problem with this test is how much different driving a simulator is to driving a real car. Not too mention the fact you have someone looking over your shoulder monitoring you which will have a big impact on making you more nervous and that much more likely to make a mistake.

Guest
Guest

The simulated driving test "experiment" was a joke and had less scientific methods involved in the testing than an elementary school science fair project (even mythbusters would have done a better job).  Aside from the problem that the driving experiment disregarded all standard scientific testing procedures, the debate around the proposed law was focused on the fact that there was no science used in determining specific limit proposed which this experiment did not even address.  Science needs to be brought into this issue to determine if there is a consistent limit at which impairment occurs.  But, if medical marijuana is going to be put under a microscope, I think it's only fair to include prescription narcotics, sleep aides, anti depressants, stimulants, etc in the studies.  The reality is that there was no science behind the law proposed and for all we know the few marijuana users involved in the televised test may have had a blood thc reading above the proposed legal limit even while sober on the first driving test prior to using marijuana (like wb).  The "experiment" didn't look at thc levels in the blood at all...which is entirely what the laws were based on.  Marijuana, like many medicines in excessive doses, can impair motor skills but anyone using it medicinally or responsibly, in moderation, would likely never reach impaired levels.  Politicians: please make sure some real scientific, unbiased research is performed before resurrecting the proposed law.  

LeForce
LeForce

i have been driving higher than shit for 10 years, never a wreck, never a ticket, never lost my car in a parking garage, and have only ran over 1 homeless man. (kidding) marijuana makes you more conscientious of your surroundings...how can that be bad for driving? 

driving after eating a potent edible is different...can definitely make you uncontrollably drowsy. but anyone that drives while drowsy (regardless of what caused the drowsiness) is an idiot asking for bad karma. 

Robert
Robert

Sorry, Michael, a couple of people climbing in a simulator in front of the cops doesn't quite seem probitive that cannabis impairs driving to me.  Studies of liability in the real world demonstrate that any net effect on driving must be very small, and more such science should be done.  We know that any distracting influence can cause accidents, and being over the age of sixty is shown to increase risk of collisions to a degree comparable to having .05% by volume alcohol in blood.  Why is there a hue and cry to villify patients when there is no evidence that cannabis is related to traffic fatalities?  Why did the Governor, prompted to respond to the criticism that he has no agenda, respond by citing his unfounded belief that there is such evidence and that a per se limit shoud be enacted next year (http://www.cpr.org/#load_artic...|Gov_John_Hickenlooper_May_2001)?Hickenlooper's statement that enacting a per se limit is a legislative priority for next year proves how inadequate to the task of leading our State he really is -- this was the first thing that came into his peanut-head when asked about a legislative agenda for next year!

Oo
Oo

 Problem is Ive been smoking marijuana in my vehicle while driving for 10 years and have never caused or even been involved in any accident virtual or otherwise. Who the hell was driving these virtual cars? 

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Patient, a joint may be a lot for a casual toker, but many of us smoke a few joints a day leading up to an ounce every 10 days for me personally.

Guest
Guest

LeForce: this law is for you, moron.  I don't want to be on the road with anybody dumb enough to drive while "higher than shit."  You are impaired (mentally speaking).

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks for sharing your experiences, LeForce. We're going to make your post an upcoming Comment of the Day. Congrats.

trickJames
trickJames

Hick's a beer guy. He has no love for cannabis.

Robert
Robert

I know, but this was the first thing out of his mouth when asked for his legislative agenda for our State next year!  This no-nothing, imaginationless restaurateur of a Governor's first identified priority next session will be to tell General Assembly, already more than halfway inclined to believe it, that an unscientific standard penalizing cannabis-users is necessary for public safety.  Hickenlooper is devoid of the ideas and the capacity to lead Colorado -- with this idiot as Governor and either Romer or Hancock Mayor of Denver, what a mind-numbing experience the next four years promise to be!

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