Part One – Cannabis DUI Testing
In our five part series, ‘Creating Careful Cannabis Consumers’, Cashinbis intends to highlight cannabis safety by pointing out ways in which the industry, as well as the general public, can promote the responsible use of cannabis. In doing this we aim to proactively jumpstart the conversation about cannabis safety and how the average person can pitch in. The first part of our series centers on DUI testing and law enforcement.
When most people hear the term ‘Driving While Intoxicated’ or ‘DUI’ they immediately think of alcohol. However, intoxication can just as easily be obtained through drug use. The first recorded DUI arrest is believed to have been on September 10th, 1897. George Smith, a 25-year-old London based taxi driver was said to have crashed in cab into a building while drunk. Smith would later pay a 25-shilling fine after pleading guilty to the offense. This may or may not have been the first DUI offense recorded, but it certainly was not the last. In 2011 alone nearly 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Even though that is a shockingly large number, it is actually an improvement from previous years. In fact, since 1982, alcohol related driving fatalities are down roughly 65%.
The trend towards safer driving has been greatly impacted by awareness programs like D.A.R.E and Moms Against Drunk Driving(MADD) in addition to DUI testing and the institution of increasingly strict legislation. One reason why these campaigns have been so successful has been the promotion of public awareness as to safe consumption practices. Another, perhaps more important reason, is the successful implementation of quick response DUI testing methods. Law enforcement has a range of tools at their disposal, from breathalyzers to field tests, all aimed at achieving a conclusion that is as instant and accurate as possible. Now, one could debate the effectiveness of the systems in place and people certainly have, but those tools remain because they have, without doubt, helped to promote a more responsible culture of alcohol consumption. It is time for the cannabis community to develop these same systems. Doing so can only improve the image of the industry, and with the continued social stigma surrounding cannabis, it is definitely a worthwhile cause.
Authorities have adapted to the times and are now handing out snacks instead of verbal warnings, complete with branded messaging that urges consumers to ‘munch, not drive’ after using cannabis.
Advocates for cannabis often refer to its effects as being ‘equal to, if not much safer, than alcohol’. One way to help people align with that ideology would be to supply authorities the use of similar technology. Currently, as it pertains to field tests for cannabis intoxication, enforcement mirrors that of the ‘wild west’, where very interpretive methods are used to draw conclusions as to one’s intoxication level. The only true test that officer could invoke is a blood test, which takes weeks for results. The last thing a law official wants is to be put on their back foot; limited as to their resources.
Luckily for everyone involved, two grad students from Ohio have created the first mobile Cannabis DUI testing technology. Kathleen Stitzlein and Mariam Crow, biomedical engineering graduate students at the University of Akron, created the ‘Cannabuster’; a device that tests saliva and determines ‘concentration of pot’s active chemical’ in the bloodstream. Their invention earned them a $10,000 inventors award, among backing from other investors. The most recent update has this product in late prototyping stages, closing in on possible production. Once a functional product hits the market, law enforcement officers will finally have a quality tool at their disposal, which could save everyone time, money and heartbreak.
It is time for the cannabis community to develop these same systems.
The positives surrounding a product like ‘Cannabuster’ hitting the market far outweigh the negatives. For starters, its application would allow authorities to correctly remove criminals from dangerous situations, with an emphasis on the word ‘correctly’. A tool like this could all but eliminate false arrests, saving countless tax dollars on the jailing and prosecution of potential offenders only to see the results of testing come back inconclusive. Furthermore, officers could detain suspects with high intoxication levels even if they don’t show the physical signs associated with intoxication. The only result from the application of this new technology is added safety for everyone involved and that is a tune we can all dance to.
While the public might be working to develop cannabis testing tools to supply law enforcement, authorities are also working to adapt to the changing times. In Denver, Colorado, law enforcement officials used the infamous ‘4/20’ holiday to change their archaic message from a ‘Just Say No’ strategy to one of safe consumption. The Colorado Department of Transportation is targeting men between the ages for 21-35, because research shows them to be the most likely to consume cannabis and drive. Authorities have adapted to the times and are now handing out snacks instead of verbal warnings, complete with branded messaging that urges consumers to ‘munch, not drive’ after using cannabis. In addition those same agencies have donated free arcade games to multiple dispensaries in the area in hopes to further convey the message of safe use.
By working with authorities to provide them the tools they need for proper law enforcement, the public is doing their part to have a positive impact.
It doesn’t matter what kind of cannabis activist you are. Medical users, recreational users, sober supporters and casual observers can all contribute to making our society a safer place by promoting responsible consumption. By working with authorities to provide them the tools they need for proper law enforcement, the public is doing their part to have a positive impact. Officials are doing their part as well, adapting their awareness campaigns to the evolving landscape that encompasses cannabis culture. Times are changing and the onus of responsibility, now more than ever, falls on the individual to do their part by positively impacting their community however possible. While past cannabis enforcement may have been cloudy and interpretive, the future looks more clear and bright than ever, with all of society working to improve the systems needed to regulate safe consumption.
How do you think the cannabis community can promote safe use? How can positive add campaigns help to de-stigmatize the industry? Join the conversation and comment below!
Photo credit: Israel Sundeth