From: ("LVNORML")
Subject: NORML E-Zine
Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 16:31:44 -0800

Volume 5
Issue 44
November 21, 2002

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TOP STORIES * NORML Reiterates Stance Against Driving While Impaired By Pot; Questions Feds' Proposed Crackdown On "Drugged Driving" * NORML Responds To Pending BMJ Editorial Regarding Marijuana And Schizophrenia
NORML Reiterates Stance Against Driving While Impaired By Pot; Questions Feds' Proposed Crackdown On "Drugged Driving" "This plan advocated by the Drug Czar would result in the unfair arrest of tens of thousands of unimpaired motorists each year," NORML Head Warns Washington, DC: While driving under the influence of pot is never acceptable, neither is it sound public policy to treat sober drivers as = if they are impaired simply because inactive marijuana metabolites may be detectable in their blood or urine, said Keith Stroup, Executive = Director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).=20 Stroup's remarks were in response to this week's launch of a new federal campaign to prosecute drivers who test positive for any presence of marijuana, including inactive metabolites that can remain present in the body for days or even weeks after past pot use. "This plan advocated by the Drug Czar would result in the unfair arrest of tens of thousands of unimpaired motorists each year," Stroup warned.=20 "That's not a safe nor sensible driving initiative; that's an attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws to identify and prosecute marijuana = smokers per se." He added: "Alcohol is legal in America, yet every state maintains tough laws punishing those who choose to drive impaired by it. Most American voters understand and accept this dynamic. There is no reason why = similar principles should not regulate cannabis consumption." While Stroup agreed that marijuana impaired drivers should be penalized just like those who drive while impaired under the influence of alcohol, he maintained that the government must not use this issue to falsely = imply that a significant portion of vehicular accidents are due to drivers operating under the influence of pot. Stroup noted that driving culpability studies consistently show that marijuana, unlike alcohol, is rarely a contributing factor in automobile accidents. "Although marijuana intoxication has been shown to mildly impair psychomotor skills, this impairment does not appear to be severe = or long lasting, particularly when compared to alcohol intoxication which increases aggressive and risk-taking behavior," Stroup said. In driving simulator tests, subjects under the influence of pot = typically manifest their impairment by decreasing their driving speed and = requiring greater time to respond to emergency situations. However, unlike = subjects under the influence of alcohol, these drivers are usually aware of their impairment and compensate for it accordingly, such as by driving more cautiously or by focusing their attention when they know a response will be required. As a result, marijuana impairment does not appear to play a significant role in on-road traffic accidents, Stroup said. For example, a recent review of scientific studies analyzing the culpability of drug-free drivers versus those testing positive for alcohol and/or marijuana reported, "[These] studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be culpable in road crashes." Seven separate studies = involving 7,934 drivers were analyzed in the review. (A more detailed summary of this and other studies is now available on the new "Marijuana & Driving" section of the NORML website, at: Nevertheless, Stroup reiterated NORML's position that driving under the influence of any substance, including pot, is unacceptable. = "Responsible cannabis consumers never operate motor vehicles in an impaired = condition," Stroup said, citing NORML's "Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use."=20 "Public safety demands not only that impaired drivers be taken off the road, but that objective measures of impairment be developed." Although roadside drug tests modeled after breathalyzer tests exist in Europe, that technology remains unavailable in the United States.=20 Instead, U.S. law enforcement primarily rely on limited drug testing technology such as urinalysis, which can detect past drug use, but not impairment. For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500. NORML's white papers on marijuana and driving, "Cruising on Cannabis: Putting the Breaks on Doped Driving Misconceptions" and "Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence," are available online at:
NORML Responds To Pending BMJ Editorial Regarding Marijuana And Schizophrenia Washington, DC: An editorial to be published in this week's issue of = the British Medical Journal (BMJ) warns of an association between the heavy use of marijuana and schizophrenia and depression. The editorial, which admits that marijuana's potential role or non-role in precipitating = either condition remains yet unresolved, accompanies three separate studies examining the issue and is expected to renew debates regarding = marijuana's potential health risks. While not commenting on the methodology of the new studies, NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre noted that pot's = potential, though marginal, risk in patient populations already predisposed to certain psychiatric disorders should in no way justify arresting and jailing responsible adult marijuana smokers, or deny doctor's from prescribing it to other types of seriously ill patients. "Any risk presented by marijuana smoking falls within the ambit of choice we = permit the individual in a free society," he said. "We do not suggest that marijuana is totally harmless. No drugs are, including those that are legal. Clearly, however, marijuana's relative risk to the user and society in no way supports criminal prohibition or the continued arrest = of more than 700,000 Americans on marijuana charges every year." St. Pierre also noted that previous scientific reviews regarding marijuana's impact on health, including a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM), have played down links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders, including = schizophrenia.=20 "Daily cigarette smoking among adolescent boys is more strongly = associated with psychiatric disorders than is any use of illicit substances," the = IOM concluded. In addition, some researchers believe that marijuana may actually play a role in treating schizophrenia. For example, a 1999 study by scientists at the University of California at Irvine speculated that the body may produce higher levels of the THC-like chemical anandamide to combat the effects of schizophrenia. "Arguably, this research is in it's infancy," St. Pierre concluded.=20 "However, epidemiological evidence gleaned from thousands of years of marijuana smoking indicates that if there is a risk associated with the use of marijuana and these ailments, then that risk is exceptionally small." For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751. The BMJ series = will appear in the November 23 issue.
Support NORML's efforts to change marijuana policy and educate the = public to alternatives to marijuana prohibition. You can join or donate online at:

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