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CA Zero-Tolerance Drug DUI Bill SB 289 Would Criminalize Innocent Drivers


california marijuana dui sb 289 driving bloodCal NORML Denounces Unscientific Abuse of Drug Testing

SACRAMENTO – On April 23rd, the  State Senate Public Safety Committee will be hearing a “zero tolerance” drug DUI bill that would criminalize unimpaired drivers as DUI based on scientifically unproven drug tests. The bill, SB 289 by Sen. Lou Correa (Anaheim), would make it illegal to drive with any detectable trace of marijuana or other illegal drugs in the blood, regardless of actual impairment.

In testimony to the legislature, California NORML warns that SB 289 would wrongly misclassify countless innocent drivers as DUI. “The science is clear that driving impairment can’t be determined by the presence of marijuana in the blood,” says NORML Director Dale Gieringer, citing studies by government experts.

Contrary to popular misconception, drug tests for marijuana differ from those for alcohol in that they don’t measure current intoxication or impairment. Unlike alcohol, THC blood levels have no direct relation to the actual dosage consumed or active in the body. Instead, they reflect recency of use, spiking to high levels immediately after smoking, then declining quickly to lower levels within an hour or so regardless of dosage.  THC can remain in the blood for 8-12 hours in occasional users and six days or more in regular users, long after any impairing effects have faded.

“In effect, SB 289 is equivalent to calling drivers DUI if they’ve had a glass of beer or wine in the past few hours, or left an empty bottle in their trash,” says Gieringer.

The scientific facts and fallacies about drug testing are explained in California NORML’s newly published booklet,”Guide to Drug Testing,” available through www.canorml.org. The guide discusses the reliability and sensitivity of different kinds of tests, their relevance to impairment and performance, how to deal with abusive testing, and its capricious and discriminatory impact on consumers, medical and otherwise.

Accident studies have found that drivers who test positive for marijuana often have no signs of impairment, and in some instances may even drive more safely. Studies have also repeatedly shown that marijuana by itself poses a lesser risk than alcohol and many other legal prescription drugs on the road. Regular users, such as medical marijuana patients, often develop tolerance and can drive safely despite having high levels of THC in their blood.

Unlike other medical drugs and devices, drug tests have never been FDA tested or approved as “safe and effective” for their supposed purpose of improving safety.  Studies of states with strict per se drug DUI laws have found no evidence they improve highway safety.

Neither is there evidence of a drug DUI crisis in California. Advocates of “zero tolerance” DUI laws, led principally by law enforcement and drug testing interests, have sought to stir up public fears of increased marijuana accidents on the road.  Such fears are belied by accident statistics, which show that highway safety has improved steadily over the years even while access to marijuana has expanded. In California, which enjoys one of the best traffic safety records in the nation, highway fatality rates have posted record lows in recent years. DUI arrests have also been on the decline.

Concerned Californians are urged to contact their legislators in opposition to SB 289 by visiting www.canorml.org.

Text of SB 289: <http://www.legislature.ca.gov/cgi-bin/port-postquery?bill_number=sb_289&sess=CUR&house=B&author=correa>

Cal NORML’s testimony:  http://www.canorml.org/Correa_SB289_Sen_tty2.pdf


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Johnny Green


  1. i believe the pen trick is 100% at detecting alcohol; your eyes will stutter if your drunk and there is no way to stop it from happening, but i never heard of it used on other drugs

  2. Johnny oneye on

    The people vote in a law and the opposers run around and try to undermine the same law with another law

    when has the Senate come up with a bill that makes sense?

    NO ON 289

  3. Incorrect. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagamus (HGN) allegedly shows one and only one thing: that someone’s blood alcohol content is at least .08. Even the witch doctors who hustle this garbage don’t claim is is effective for marijuana impairment.

  4. There is a way of detecting if a person is under the influence of cannabis (not impairment). I tried to find a link to how the test is performed, but could not find the page. I think they use a pen and ask the driver to follow the pen without moving their head. The officer watches the eyes of the driver and the eyes of a person high on cannabis will stutter (shift back and forth) when the pen approaches the periphery of the drivers field of view.

    What they need is a field sobriety test that determines impairment regardless of the type of inebriant.

  5. Forensic evidence is used in court system readily. DNA evidence is also a tool of the justice system. It is clear that the justice system relies on scientific evidence in order to function.

    In the case of these zero tolerance laws concerning DUI the law needs to be supported by science in order to function in the court system. If the law passes (I do not think it is possible) the court would not have to provide evidence of impairment.

    The key word is impairment. Law enforcement still has to have probable cause before they can conduct a field sobriety test. If I was pulled over for speeding (sober) and the officer suspected impairment and I pass the FST then I would probably be issued a speeding ticket and be free to go. There are too many obstacles preventing law enforcement to require any testing if the FST was passed.

    The Supreme Court took oral arguments for warrantless blood tests in January of 2013. I believe that the justice system still protects the rights of citizens from overreaching and aggressive law enforcement policies. This bill is overreaching in that it is completely arbitrary in substance.

    People that eat poppy seed bagels will test positive for opiates and if they do not have a prescription for opiates they will then be guilty of DUI. DMT (Ayahuasca) is a psychoactive substance that is a schedule I drug. DMT is present in the human body in small amounts because it is produced by the pineal gland from an amino acid precursor tryptophan. Blood levels of DMT will show up on tests if they test for everything so every single human being behind the wheel could be arrested. Anyone that eats hemp seeds could test positive for small levels of THC. There are far too many problems with a zero tolerance DUI law to be effective in preventing DUI accidents and fatalities.

    It seems to be time to require these kind of bills to require supporting scientific evidence to be conducted and included. I have seen far too many questionable bills crafted out of some imagined urgency become more of a problem than a solution. Since we can not require a lawmaker to prove intelligent competancy before running for office, we should require the bill to have proof of competency before submission.

    Here is an idea. Let’s stop trying to solve the DUI problem with ineffective laws and enforcement. There is plenty of technology available to monitor a drivers habits and determine if the driver is impaired. Upon detecting impairment the vehicle is disabled or speed is restricted (warning! impairment detected vehicle will be disabled in 30 seconds). There is also 30 year old technology that applies the brakes when a radar sensor detects an obstacle in front of the vehicle (similar to the warning signal when an obstacle is detected when the car is in reverse).

    Sen. Lou Corea would better serve his constituency if he approached the DUI problem from a more intelligent prospective. It is far to easy to create an ineffective bill that does more harm than good. Our congress is already filled with far too many neophytes and imbeciles, so he may want to do a little homework instead of following in their footsteps.

  6. OK , correct me if I am wrong . It has been a VERY long time since I was last asked to submit to a breathalizer test but if I pass one how can i be required to provide a blood sample ?
    If I refuse and lawyer up , how can they justify it if I do not exibit any “intoxicated” behavior ?

  7. Colorado is also close to passing a law that would make anyone with 5 nano-grams of THC per milliliter of blood guilty of driving while stoned, regardless of their level of impairment (if any), and despite any lack of evidence that this amount of THC equates to dangerous driving. Although it is obvious that driving while impaired is stupid and dangerous, picking some number out of thin air and then making people criminals because their blood has some tiny level of THC is equally stupid. Instead, they should administer a roadside impairment test to anyone driving erratically, like walking a straight line or touching their nose, and prosecuting all who fail. I bet most drivers who failed these tests would be under the influence of something other than cannabis.

  8. The grim Reefer on

    This bogus law if passed will make california millions in revenue. What a scam

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