Laws and Legislation
Oregon: Agency Rejects Adoption Of Per Se Traffic Safety Laws For Cannabis
Salem, OR: Lawmakers should not amend the state’s traffic safety laws or institute per se thresholds for cannabinoids, according to the recommendations of a new report issued by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which had been tasked with reviewing the state’s driving laws following the passage of legislation in 2015.
Authors concluded that intoxication due to alcohol, not marijuana, remains by far the greatest contributor to motor vehicle accidents and found “no evidence” of an “epidemic of THC-related collisions” post marijuana legalization.
They further reported, “Studies that have been conducted tend to show an elevated risk of crashes while under the influence of THC, but generally a lower overall risk as compared to alcohol impairment.” Specifically, authors acknowledged that drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08 possess approximately a 400 percent increase in motor crash risk compared to sober drivers. By contrast, recent crash culpability studies of marijuana-positive drivers report an elevated risk of accident of 30 percent or lower.
Authors also rejected the idea of imposing per se limits that criminalize the act of operating a motor vehicle if the driver possesses detectable amounts of specific drugs or drug metabolites above a set threshold. Under these laws, drivers are guilty per se of violating the traffic safety laws even absent evidence of demonstrable impairment.
Authors acknowledged that evidence quantifying THC/blood levels with psychomotor impairment is not available at this time. Rather than imposing such non-scientific standards, they recommended the creation of standardized field detection tolls, “that are able to detect recent use and impairment, separate from levels of THC that may be due to chronic but non-recent marijuana use.”
Recent reports by both the American Automobile Association and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reject the use of per se thresholds as predictors of cannabis-induced driver impairment.
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: [email protected]orml.org.
What’s Next with Recreational vs. Medicinal Cannabis in Oregon?
The lawmakers of Oregon are struggling to find answers and solutions to the myriad of cannabis issues facing them. Among topics they will consider this session is a proposal to merge key elements of the state’s longstanding medical program with the OLCC controlled recreational one, in addition to a bill that would allow special cannabis events and cannabis clubs.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said that her priority is ensuring adequate oversight of the medical and recreational cannabis programs but wouldn’t be surprised to see them combined under OLCC.
According to Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland and co-chair of the legislative committee overseeing marijuana policy, said that uniting medicinal with recreational will be the focus this year.
Lawmakers are considering moving thousands of small medical marijuana growers into the seed-to-sale system managed by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, now that they are generating an estimated $3 million in sales each week.
Merging medicinal with recreational would not only prove more efficient for the industry and lawmakers, it might help to keep Oregon marijuana out of the black market, according to proponents of the proposal.
The concern by medical marijuana advocates is that bringing this program under the OLCC’s very strict rules and regulation will increase their costs and pose burdens to smaller producers. Currently, medical marijuana growers are subject to much less regulation and oversight under the Oregon Health Authority.
However, in the current situation, medicinal growers have much fewer options when it comes to selling their products since they can only provide it directly to patients or sell it to dispensaries, which can only sell to medical marijuana patients and caregivers, their options are limited.
To make matters worse, when the recreational and medicinal markets were separated in dispensaries, many of the state’s medicinal dispensaries closed, leaving a slim market for distribution. By combining medical production into the recreational system means those growers have access to a much larger and more profitable consumer market.
“The more we can consolidate,” said Burdick, “the better it is for the industry.”
Many are worried about patients who’ve come to rely on free or low-cost cannabis from medical marijuana growers who have now moved to the recreational market, that could potentially leave the sick behind.
Anthony Taylor, a longtime advocate for patients says, “We really do have a medical program that’s been functioning for nearly two decades that really has benefited tens of thousands of patients and to disrupt that for regulatory ease is not very good.”
“I understand they want to capture as much commerce as they can,” he said, “but adding medical marijuana patients to their plate doesn’t really mean that’s going to happen, at least not for patients.”
So, it will be interesting to see how our lawmakers will rule on this very complicated situation, and what the consequences and benefits will be for both recreational and medicinal cannabis users.