Californians Rally Against Zero-Tolerance DUI Bill

UPDATE April 30 – After over 3,400 letters and emails were sent from NORML supporters in opposition to this bill, it was pulled from consideration this year.

April 23 – Dale Gieringer of California NORML spoke today at a rally in Sacramento against a bill that would make any amount of marijuana or drugs in the bloodstream an automatic DUI.

“I hope everybody realizes that this bill, SB289, is basically a crime creation program,” Gieringer said. “It would take thousands and thousands of perfectly safe drivers who happen to have the technical amounts of unprescribed drugs–particularly marijuana–in their bloodstream, and consider them automatically impaired or under the influence.

“I can say that there’s absolutely no science in support of the notion that people with marijuana or these other drugs are necessarily impaired drivers,” Gieringer added. “You don’t have to take my word for it, the government’s own experts say the same thing. The NHTSA has said it’s impossible to determine impairment based on blood concentrations of marijuana or drugs alone.

“I think the notion here is to try to compare marijuana to alcohol, but you can drive with the legal limit of 0.8 percent alcohol in your system. Yet, all the studies show that people with marijuana in their systems are in fact safer drivers than those with 0.8 percent alcohol in their blood.

The bill is based on blood tests, Gieringer reminded the crowd, not urine. THC will wash out from the blood in 8-12 hours, whereas the actual time of any conceivable impairment is 2 1/2 to 4 hours. Unlike alcohol, the amount of marijuana in person’s bloodstream “has nothing to do with the amount that’s actually acting in your brain at that particular time,” Gieringer pointed out.

“If you are a regular user of marijuana, like a patient, you will probably have residual THC in your blood at insignificant levels for 1-3 weeks. So any regular medical marijuana user will automatically be considered DUI under this bill. ”

The bill would also submit all drivers to increased risk of unwarranted blood tests, he noted, and this is by far not the only abuse of drug testing, as CalNORML points out in its new Guide to Drug Testing.

“I urge you to fight against drug testing,” Gieringer said in closing. “The notion that you can judge somebody based on the chemicals in their body is as absurd as judging them based on their genes or their skin color. It has no place in a free society.”

Also speaking was Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access, who called SB289 a bill to placate law enforcement lobbyists. He called for enforcement of current DUI laws instead. Nate Bradley of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) also spoke against SB289. A hearing on the bill was to take place today, but was postponed until April 30.

The rally was planned by Ron Mullins of Sacramento ASA and promoted by Sacramento NORML.

Over 2,000 letters and emails have been sent in opposition to SB289 from NORML’s website. TELL THE STATE SENATE TO SAY NO TO  SB 289.

Read Gieringer’s testimony against SB289

Also today, Rep. Tom Ammiano’s bill to regulate medical marijuana, AB473, passed through the Assembly Public Safety committee and is headed for appropriations.

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