Marijuana: NORML wants THC driving bill re-do, health department boss out after lab scandal

smoking driving 205x205.jpg
Earlier this week, defense attorneys weighed in on a damning report aimed at the state toxicology lab, which conducts blood tests for cases of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Attorney Rob Corry thinks officials may have waited until June to release the document (it was finished in March) for fear it would undermine the THC driving bill, which passed last month after two failed attempts. Now, NORML wants the state legislature to revisit the law -- and the head of the health department, which oversees the lab, has resigned under pressure.

Yesterday afternoon, the office of Governor John Hickenlooper broke the news about Dr. Chris Urbina, the executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As is expected at such times, Hickenlooper's statement about the resignation was gracious. It reads:

"Chris is a true public servant and valued member of our Cabinet. We are grateful for his work at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, particularly his support of safe and responsible development of the state's oil and natural gas resources. Chris also led the department in implementing LEAN process improvements to create a more responsive and effective operation that reduced unnecessary and ineffective rules and regulations."
dr.chris.urbina.jpg
Dr. Chris Urbina.
Still, there's little doubt that Urbina's planned departure at month's end was heavily influenced by the report. As our Alan Prendergast noted, the document (on view below) "delves into employee concerns about inadequate training, unsafe storage of evidence, understaffing [and] supervisor bias."

These last claims are mainly directed at Cynthia Burbach, who oversaw the lab and regularly testified in DUI and DUID cases, and lobbied on behalf of previous driving-under-the-influence-of-drugs bills, which argued for an intoxication standard of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. She, too, has resigned, stepping down at the end of May, just prior to the report's arrival.

In a remarkable, eleven-page defense of her actions issued earlier this week (it, too, is below), Burbach insists that the timing was entirely coincidental.

Cynthia Burbach.
So, too, presumably, was the misspelling of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers's name as "John Struthers" in the release's first paragraph.

Suthers, for his part, put out a statement disputing speculation that he'd dragged his feet making the report public, claiming that he "immediately acted to ensure its expeditious release."

Not buying any of that is Sean McAllister, who is both a well-known marijuana attorney and a member of the legal committee for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). On behalf of the group, NORML has formally filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for all written communication between Burbach and a raft of state agencies. Additionally, he's sent a letter to Hickenlooper, Suthers, speaker of the Colorado House Mark Ferrandino and state senate president John Morse.

In the letter, McAllister tells the officials that NORML is "requesting that the Legislature reconsider its decision to impose an arbitrary DUID-marijuana standard of 5 ng/ml in light of the revelations of the drastic deficiences in the lab training, qualification, accuracy, standard operating procedures, reporting, and alleged bias of employees of the state toxicology laboratory at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment."

We asked McAllister to expand on his complaints -- and he had no trouble doing so.

Continue for more about the THC driving bill, including photos and documents.


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107 comments
Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

If the legislators are "tired of the issue," they've chosen a funny time to get tired (after ramming it down our throats along with biased testimony.) Most of us were tired of it well before it got finagled into law.

pitchman101
pitchman101

(Prosecutors’ obligation is to see justice, not convictions.) If that were only the way our system realy worked!

I believe Prosecutors take an oath pertaining to morals and ethics and if they dont, they should.

Point being that if this scandal was common knowledge by anyone in an authoritative possition and was supressed,Then they should be held accountable criminaly!


if there is any dought regarding the mishandling of any samples for convictions or pleas that occured during the months in question or bias potentialy played a role,then all these cases should be overturned or dismissed. Period!

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

The cops should have gotten Paul Armentano, Norml's Deputy Director, to testify FOR the 5ng limit he made a pretty good argument when I asked him about the cannabis DUI the first time. Armentano even said the ‘permissible inference’ should be our focus, Norml got everything they want why are they back peddeling now? 


Date: Tue, 8 Mar 2011 18:06:53 -0800
Subject: Re: Cannabis and driving
From: paul@norml.org
To: minatour48@hotmail.com

Corey,

I fear we have exhausted this discussion via e-mail. Sewell’s own work, which I’ve cited twice, provides credence to impairment above 5ng/ml.(e.g.,serum concentrations of THC higher than 5 ng/mL are associated with an increased risk of accidents.”)  Numerous studies and reviews by international experts also indicate that such a threshold may be suitable.  Likewise, there are other papers that argue for an even lower threshold of 2ng/ml (See attached) or even 1ng/ml, (as a reporter recently told me NIDA’s Marilyn Huestis had advocated for, and the Walsh Group has lobbied for) which in my opinion truly would be an arbitrary standard. I can tell you with certainly that there were many involved in this issue behind the scenes that lobbied for a much lower standard.

<<Field sobriety tests are a much better measure of functional impairment. The current field sobriety test is tuned to pick up on alcohol. I don't think they've developed one for cannabis yet, but that would be the way to go, not blood measurements.>>

The clinical results of Papfotiou et al (attached) would disagree.

An evaluation of the sensitivity of the Standardised Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) to detect impairment due to marijuana intoxication

The results revealed that there was a pos- itive relationship between the dose of THC administered and the number of participants classified as impaired based on the SFSTs. Results also revealed that the percentage of participants classified as impaired decreased from Time 1 to Time 3 and that the addition of a new sign, head movements or jerks (HMJ), increased the percentage of participants classified as impaired in both the low and high THC conditions. These findings suggest that impaired performance on the SFSTs is positively related to the dose of THC administered and that the inclusion of HMJ as a scored sign in the SFSTs improves their predictive validity when testing for THC intoxication.”

As I stated before, the far larger issue of contention is not the proposed threshold but keeping this estimation a ‘permissible inference’ that may be rebutted in court, not a per se standard.  I would argue that this should be your focus.

Best regards,
-- 
Paul Armentano
Deputy Director
NORML | NORML Foundation
paul@norml.org

krymsun
krymsun

Why does most everyone automatically jump to the impulsive knee-jerk, FALSE assumption that cannabis impairs drivers much the same as does alcohol? Why let uninformed opinions be the basis of new laws? It took me very little time to do a search, and find actual scientific studies which indicate just how incorrect such an assumption is.

See: http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence

Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities concluded that, as currently implemented, making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with drugs (or drug metabolites) in the system, has no discernible impact on traffic fatalities.
See: http://ftp.iza.org/dp7048.pdf

Driving High on Marijuana Is Safer Than Driving Drunk [ or driving sober ]
See: http://blogs.lawyers.com/2012/04/cruising-the-high-way-safer-than-drunk-driving/

For some Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safe Drivers
See: http://www.theweeklyconstitutional.com/news/headlines/1035-why-you-should-always-spark-up-before-hitting-the-road

Marijuana By Itself Not a Significant Factor in Fatal and Injury Crashes in 2012, DPS Data Shows
http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2013/05/marijuana_not_a_significant_fa.php

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Which prohibitionist(s) will Hack appoint to replace Urbina?  Urbina was both head of the Department and the State's Chief Medical Officer.  There would seem to be no hope of the Department ever undertaking to fulfill its responsibilities under Article XVIII, Section 14 of our Constitution, but it is worth pointing out yet again that the CDPHE should be researching medical cannabis and certifying new conditions for which it may be recommended.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

NORML failed to oppose a 5 ng THC/ml of blood per se standard in 2010 when it was first introduced, and it's more than a little late to be trying to take credit for opposing the 5 ng standard enacted.  Urbina has now resigned -- the people who matter in Colorado decided that the fallout of the audit required his sacrifice -- but reflect on the woman really responsible.  We first encountered Cindy Burbach three years ago when, as State Toxicologist, she testified about her work crisscrossing the State to testify about the dire effects of cannabis on driving.  Ms Burbach did not at that time have even a Master's degree in toxicology.  It puts the debate about the DUID bills of the past three years into perspective to recall also from her testimony of three years ago that the State was already swamped with blood samples taken from drivers suspected of being intoxicated; I believe she mentioned a backlog of 1700, which have been being farmed out to Chematox in Boulder.  The statutes already permitted a witchhunt for culpability in drivers' blood, and it has continued unabated irrespective of the maneuvering over the DUID bills.  Burbach, whose animus against cannabis apparently extends to alcohol as well, apparently botched ~9% of all tests it performed to determine blood alcohol content.  After a brief career in State government pressing her thumb down upon the scales of injustice and trying to rekindle prohibitionist alarm about cannabis, Cindy Burbach retired back in May -- Urbina kept the lid on the damning audit long enough for her to make her exit unscathed.

John Doe Radio
John Doe Radio

According to Westword today NORML is asking Colorado to rethink its 5ng DUID law.. Wait, is this the same NORML where the founder Keith Stroup states... "Five nanograms is not a bad place to put assumption; if you have five nanograms of THC in your system, you're probably inhibited and shouldn't drive. "


You can't keep jumping back and forth to suit your own political needs. 

If you support an organization you should pay attention to their actions. A few of NORML's stances including the ng statement I posted above and statements about medical marijuana harming legalization I just can't fly with. Thats just me.

Stephanie Sarad
Stephanie Sarad

5 nanograms can be present from a contact high. days or weeks after the fact. How the F is that legal/fair? You cant pass a law when you have no knowledge of the science of pot. Its like a group of deaf people passing a noise ordinance. Its complete BS

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@CoreyDonahue 

NORML = lobbyists for the Marijuana McLawyer Industry and their financial profits.

Regulation Works! ... for those who are PAID Big $$$ to enforce/defend Regulations.

Get REGULATED, bitches! ... you ignorant fucktards voted for it!


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CoreyDonahue  < ------- EXCELLENT EXAMPLE of a REAL,  'Top Commenter' !!!

Provides sites and links providing additional info !  UNlike our local media-propaganda machines !

You DO 'follow' him, right ????

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CoreyDonahue  Can we file a 35 b or c, totally avoiding chasing repeals ?

Good to see you are okay . Got a little worried . Hadn't heard anything from you in a while .....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@mich.cannabisunivers  <----- Have you personally viewed the 'Rev's' alleged 'legal suit' against the state regarding A64 ?

The Rev ? LOL !!!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@krymsun ... why did Stupid Stoners write "Driving under the INFLUENCE of Marijuana shall remain ILLEGAL" into their own Amendment 64 ??

Just how FUCKING STUPID was that?


fognl7
fognl7

@RobertChase  

It's difficult for CDPHE and others to study marijuana when it is classified on Schedule 1 of the controlled substances act.

Also, I'm having a hard time translating your post.  Are you saying Dr. Urbina is a hack?  That prohibitionists will 'hack-appoint' a replacement?  Or rather, that whomever is appointed to his vacated position will inevitably not do their job? 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase = supported and voted for that rancid piece of shit A64, which SURRENDERED TOTAL CONTROL of Marijuana over to those Prohibitionist Hacks.

Now acts surprised that those Prohibitionist Pigs haven't learned to fly.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@John Doe Radio

NORML = the Lobbying Arm for Marijuana McLawyers who stand to reap MILLIONS of $$$ from defending fools and tools who will get busted DUI-m 


... it's no surprise that a Mendacious Marijuana McLawyer -- lyin' Brian Vicente -- DELIBERATELY wrote into A64 that Driving Under the INFLUENCE of Marijuana SHALL remain ILLEGAL!


And THOUSANDS of CLUELESS STONERS VOTED FOR IT !!

You FUCKED YOURSELVES in the ASS ... for a Pathetic Ounce!


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@Stephanie Sarad  

This is OUR story & we ARE sticking to it !!!

WTF NOT ? Christians & Republicans do 'it' all the time !!!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Stephanie Sarad "5 nanograms can be present from a contact high. days or weeks after the fact"

Complete BULLSHIT.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @CoreyDonahue  

I laugh at those who attempt to argue this fact . ALL the studies show, PEOPLE SIGN W/O READING better than %90 if the time !!! It certainly didn't help w/ the media MISLEADING the public into thinking they WERE in fact VOTING TO legalize MARIJUANA . Do an independent study of residents who voted 'Yes' & a lot STILL think they voted to, (and got), marijuana LEGALIZED in Colorado !

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

@Juan_Leg I think we would have to prove injury first, meaning someone would have to go down for this bullshit.  But I will check.  

Thank you for your concern.  I am doing good. The Bolivian Government is aware of my asylum claim http://es.scribd.com/doc/145953971/Asylum-Claimed. Now I just to present my argument that I am being persucuted by the Government of the US for my political beliefs, the primary one being, the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition is a crime against humanity.  It's also nice that Bolivia kicked out the DEA, views the coca leaf as the plant it is and has withdrawen fro the Single Convention Treaty untill the real legalisation of the coca leaf was permited as the coca leaf is benifital like cannabis.  Juan_Leg, if you could help me get this story out that would be appreacated as we all know the Wasteword won't.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Juan_Leg ... he who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @RobertChase  

I thought he voted, 'No' . I feel like a sack of shit for saying this, (at this time especially), "One's vote isn't anyone's business but their own . " 

 I personally am grateful I have access to more than the media OR I would have voted 'Yes', myself ....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @RobertChase  

I'd give the shirt off my back to either of you two .....

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

@Juan_Leg  Just emailed the SMS.  PAss my information along to anyone who would be interested and again thank you.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CoreyDonahue @Juan_Leg  

Perhaps a little more persuading would/will do the trick . I'll do the same w/ Mr. Greenwald & hope Hotay, as well as any and all others, who DO care & are concerned, follow suit !

Fucking media !!!

May I send your info to the Stephanie Miller Show ? YOU should contact her yourself !!! I do have the next week off & will begin plastering similar sites 1st thing in the morn . 

If you think of anything else, let me know ...

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

@Juan_Leg  They will just look the fool when they get beat to this story.  And now we have Mr. Snowden also seeking asylum. So me seeking asylum is just me being Crazy for Justice but now you have two people seeking asylum. Wonder what that means and if I could use Mr. Snowden's claim to assist with my claim and vis versa?  It also helps that both of us were also trying to get trasparency in government.  

It would best be handled by Gleen Greenwald of the Gaurdian 
glenn.greenwald@guardiannews.com as he broke Mr. Snowden's news of his asylum claim.  I wrote him immideatally after that news broke.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CoreyDonahue @Juan_Leg  

'God' forbid, Michael writes more than %80 of the publication & somehow conveniently ignores you !

COME ON WW, there's a REAL story here SLAPPING you in the face !  It would be best done by Patricia or Alan . ( Mel's busy w/ the Holmes trial .)

CoreyDonahue
CoreyDonahue

@Juan_Leg @CoreyDonahueThank you again.  You got me thinking wonder if Governor Nixonlooper informed the Department of Justice about this as we know they were having conversations and Suthers said "immediately acted to ensure its expeditious release."  


This question also needs to be asked.  When was this known and was this information transmitted in conversations between Nixonlooper and the Department of Justice regarding the implementation of A64? And did the federal government have any hand in interfering with the legislative acts of the State of Colorado?

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Hotay, once someone HAS been sentenced, could the door be 'opened' via the '35' motions ? I WAS being sarcastic at 1st, but got to wondering IF ...???

Remember, 1/2 full ......

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@CoreyDonahue @Juan_Leg  

I will most certainly pass 'it' along !!! Anything else from this end, you need only ask . 

I'm not the only one who gets concerned when you've been absent for a while . Your work is both admired and appreciated !

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @CoreyDonahue @Juan_Leg  

But we HAVE been 'sentenced' to suffering by the hands of stupidity . So much deception it SHOULD be considered criminal .

Could it be worded correctly to be  EVEN considered ? I know I'm reaching, but .......

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@CoreyDonahue @Juan_Leg

HipTips for the Weekend:

1) the 35b/c reference is sarcasm. Those are motions for sentence reconsideration / plea withdrawals in criminal proceedings.

2) Brasil still offers automatic asylum to worldwide fugitives ... all you need to do is create a love child with one of their bootylicious beauties.

3) enroll in a local ESL class, it'll do you some good.



Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @Juan_Leg  

IF HE WAS IN FACT, IN POSSESSION OF A FILED 'SUIT' , he'd be plastering 'IT' ALL OVER these sections  for SUPPORT !!!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@BitterDonkey "maybe you use donkey's member as your second leg?"

Too Beaucoup! ... Too Beaucoup!

BitterDonkey
BitterDonkey

@DonkeyHotay has ZERO evidence to support the ABJECTLY ABSURD assertion that a CONTACT HIGH will NOT sustain 5ng/ml WEEKS after the contact.

Keep failing fucktard, it's what you do best.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@BitterDonkey = has ZERO evidence to support the ABJECTLY ABSURD assertion that a CONTACT HIGH will sustain 5ng/ml WEEKS after the contact.

Keep flailing, stoner, it's what you ignorant imbeciles do best.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@BitterDonkey @DonkeyHotay  

But you started it !!!

LOL


BitterDonkey
BitterDonkey

@Juan_Leg if she was, you could have picked her up after your last buritto run.  Instead you chose Donkey's ass.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@DonkeyHotay @BitterDonkey  

'..... wasn't ....?

Isn't ?

BitterDonkey
BitterDonkey

@DonkeyHotay...there it is, complete degeneration into a 6th grade insult.  You're true form.  Thanks for playing, you are the weakest link. :)

BitterDonkey
BitterDonkey

@DonkeyHotay hey fucktard, prove it doesn't.  Otherwise you're just as moronic.

[cue crickets chirping]

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@BitterDonkey ... hey fucknuts, it's incumbent upon the idiots making the POSITIVE ASSERTION to back up THEIR claim.

So go ahead, asswipe, PROVE that a CONTACT HIGH will sustain 5 ng/ml in someone WEEKS after the contact.

[ cue crickets chirping ]


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@BitterDonkey ... the lying clueless stoner chick made the absurd assertion that 5 ng/ml can be present from a CONTACT HIGH ... WEEKS after the fact.

It's up to YOU lying pig-ignorant bong-sucking stoners to PROVE your assertion, fucktard.


Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

@BitterDonkey @DonkeyHotay  

I'm gonna ride along in the back w/ these stupid stoners keeping my mouth shut .....

On this point that is ....

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