One of the problems with setting a legal limit and prosecuting “stoned drivers” is that researchers and law enforcement officials have not yet determined, “how stoned is too stoned” to drive.
Scientists working for the federal government have been using performance tests to determined levels that would make a driver too stoned to drive. Volunteers got drunk and stoned on marijuana provided by the federal government before they got behind the wheel to perform a series of performance tests. According to a USA Today report, it was the most comprehensive study on how marijuana affects or inhibits driving capabilities.
Researchers will be compiling and analyzing the data to help regulators set legal limits and answer the fundamental question: “When is a marijuana user too stoned to drive?”
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According to the report, scientists recruited volunteers in the vicinity of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator in Iowa City. Participants were not required to get behind an actual wheel or take to the roads while stoned, but they were instructed to drive behind the wheel of a federal simulator that replicates driving in parking lots, interstates, and gravel roads. The simulator even has obstacles for drivers, including passing cars, and moving objects, like animals.
Volunteers were asked to imbibe some combination of marijuana and alcohol. Some of the volunteers were given a placebo. The campus, which is smoke free, prevented the volunteers from smoking joints, so they used a vaporizer to ingest marijuana into the blood stream. The marijuana was furnished and distributed in accordance with strict federal rules. The 19 volunteers were given six different combinations of pot and alcohol and tested to determine intoxication levels. The entire test took three years to plan and execute. Testing was finally completed this year and federal scientists are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the data. Initial findings should be published by October 2014.
The study is an attempt to help law enforcement officials when setting legal limits and to ensure that these levels are both fair and safe. Currently there is a debate over whether there should be a “zero tolerance” policy set for drivers who may be under the influence. The study will look at how driving functions may be impaired by use and also whether different levels of THC impact a driver’s ability. Scientists will be looking at approximately 250 different variables. In Colorado, officers currently perform a series of voluntary roadside tests to determine whether a driver is impaired. Currently, officers can test levels of THC using saliva on a rapid screening tests.
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