SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —A new bill is aimed at cracking down on people driving under the influence of drugs.
Under SB 289, introduced by state Sen. Lou Correa, it is illegal for a person to have in his or her blood any detectable amount of drugs while driving, unless it was taken in accordance with a valid prescription from a doctor.
The drugs are from those classified in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the California Uniform Controlled Substance Act.
Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness, who represents the California Peace Officers Association, supports the bill.
“You’re talking about something that’s per se unlawful, prohibited -- so therefore, its mere presence, coupled with the operation of the motor vehicle, is a threat to the safety of the public,” McGinness told KCRA 3, adding that he is waiting for details on how the bill would be enforced.
The most current draft of SB 289 does not make an exception for marijuana, for which patients receive a doctor’s recommendation, rather than a prescription.
“It would impact thousands and thousands of patients across the state who are not impaired,” said Lanette Davies, a spokesperson for Crusaders for Patients Rights. “There’s nothing in their system that’s impairing them, but they would be driving illegally if this bill is passed.”
Davies said a better way to ensure safe driving would focus on the nature of impairment, rather than the medication in the driver’s system.
However, supporters believe SB 289 is a good start in getting drugged drivers off the roads.
“The goal is to minimize the likelihood of anybody operating a motor vehicle on the highways in California when there’s evidence to show they have some level of impairment that will compromise your safety and mine,” McGinness said.
According to a recent study released by the Office of Traffic Safety, more California drivers tested positive for drugs that may impair driving at 14 percent, than they did for alcohol at 7.3 percent.
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11:39 AM ET
Marijuana could be the next gay marriage -- a contentious social issue that suddenly picks up broad, bipartisan support for change. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out in favor of legalizing hemp, joining Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and fellow Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to cosponsor a bill that would allow Americans to grow it, NBC News' Kasie Hunt
reports. Of course, hemp is not the same as regular marijuana. Industrial hemp has much less THC, the chemical that gets people high. But right now, hemp is classified in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. On Thursday, the Kentucky state senate voted to legalize hemp if
the federal government legalizes it too. Oregon has legalized hemp cultivation, but farmers risk federal prosecution.
Again, hemp is not the same thing as marijuana, "but some law enforcement groups say it is a step that could lead to the legalization of marijuana," Hunt writes. Other lawmakers -- yes, even conservative Republicans! -- have addressed legalizing the drug itself. The most fascinating example was last week, when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said twice he was "evolving" on the issue of marijuana legalization when political science students at the University of Virginia asked him about voters legalizing weed in Colorado and Washington last fall. "I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [in terms of marijuana legalization]," Cuccinelli said
. "But I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out." He explained it as a federalism thing
: "I don't have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing. I think that's the role of states."
Cuccinelli is expected to be the next Republican nominee for Virginia governor. He's a very conservative dude. He led the states' rebellion against Obamacare. He's said conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia isn't conservative enough
. In the same UVA appearance, he said he didn't support public pools because they distort the free market.
More remarkable is that Cuccinelli later clarified his comments -- but not in the traditional political definition of the word, which is "retract all previous statements." Instead, he questioned the war on drugs
"What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It's been phenomenally expensive...
[If the government] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who's pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I'll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal."
Rand Paul has gone further in talking about marijuana legalization than his pro-him pal McConnell. In November, like Cuccinelli, Paul said, "States should be allowed to make a lot of these decisions... I think, for example, we should tell young people, 'I'm not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don't want to put you in jail for 20 years...'"
It's important to explain what's radical and what isn't in this position. Few people who get caught with marijuana go to jail for 20 years, so opposing that isn't a big deal. It's the boring part of Paul's comment -- let states make the call on weed -- that actually is radical. As Reason's Jacob Sullum
explained, a Republican senator supporting "devolving drug policy decisions to the states is pretty bold in the current political context." He writes:
It is the policy embodied in the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011
, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Paul's father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). How many of their fellow congressmen joined them? Nineteen
, all but one (Dana Rohrabacher of California) a Democrat.
So, how are the states doing? On Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced people arrested on minor pot possession charges won't be booked and held for arraignment anymore, The Wall Street Journal
reports. Instead, they'll be released with appearance tickets, which means the person is free until his or her court date. But the issue is being addressed outside liberalism's East Coast capital. In state legislatures like Rhode Island
, and Pennsylvania
, the push for legalization in 2013 has, so far, been dominated by Democrats. But there are signs Republicans might ease their opposition, too. This week, Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach toldRaw Story
that if her marijuana legalization bill was voted on by "secret ballot," it would pass. Privately, Leach said, some of the "most conservative" lawmakers agree on legalization, because it's "just another government program" that doesn't work.
In New Hampshire, some Republican lawmakers are willing to go on the record. "Marijuana can let them die in peace, and if this helps them, so be it," Republican state Rep. Will Infantine said after hearing testimony from people with debilitating illnesses, The Dartmouth
reports Friday. A bill to legalize medical marijuana is expected to pass by mid-March and make New Hampshire the last New England state to allow it. Last year, the Democratic governor vetoed two medical marijuana bills, but current Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she won't veto the current bill.
One of the most fascinating marijuana moments this year was when conservative former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo announced he would smoke pot to make good on his bet with Adam Hartle, a stand-up comic, over whether Colorado would legalize weed. "Look, I made a bet with the producer of the film that if Amendment 64 passed ( I did not think it would) that I would smoke pot," Tancredo said
. "I will therefore smoke pot under circumstances we both agree are legal under Colorado law." His family eventually peer pressured
him out of it.
Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Posted: 02/12/2013 11:04 am
I firmly believe that at some point during his second administration President Obama is going to address the issue of mass incarceration in America. What I fear is that he is going to wait so long, and ultimately do so with such caution, as to minimize his potential impact.
I'll be listening to his State of the Union tonight, hoping against hope that he says something, and says something bold. He's made clear he has other priorities -- the economy, immigration, climate change and now gun violence -- but what a difference it would make for him to speak to this issue when he addresses the nation.
There's no question he gets it. Barack Obama was a strong proponent of criminal justice reform as a state legislator. He spoke about it when he ran for president the first time. His administration worked hard during his first years in office to eliminate the racially disproportionate disparity in federal sanctions for crack and powder cocaine, winning a bipartisan compromise to at least reduce the disparity from 100:1 to 18:1. And he made clear in a Time magazine interview
just two months ago that he views over-incarceration for non-violent offenses as a real problem:
Well, I don't think it's any secret that we have one of the two or three highest incarceration rates in the world, per capita. I tend to be pretty conservative, pretty law and order, when it comes to violent crime. My attitude is, is that when you rape, murder, assault somebody, that you've made a choice; the society has every right to not only make sure you pay for that crime, but in some cases to disable you from continuing to engage in violent behavior.
But there's a big chunk of that prison population, a great huge chunk of our criminal justice system that is involved in nonviolent crimes. And it is having a disabling effect on communities. Obviously, inner city communities are most obvious, but when you go into rural communities, you see a similar impact. You have entire populations that are rendered incapable of getting a legitimate job because of a prison record. And it gobbles up a huge amount of resources. If you look at state budgets, part of the reason that tuition has been rising in public universities across the country is because more and more resources were going into paying for prisons, and that left less money to provide to colleges and universities.
But this is a complicated problem. One of the incredible transformations in this society that precedes me, but has continued through my presidency, even continued through the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, is this decline in violent crime. And that's something that we want to continue. And so I think we have to figure out what are we doing right to make sure that that downward trend in violence continues, but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process.
Read that last line, that last clause, again: "but also are there millions of lives out there that are being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." He didn't say a few; he didn't say thousands; he said millions. And the fact is that the president's not exaggerating -- not when this country has less than 5 percent of the world's population but almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population; not when our rate of incarceration is roughly five times that of most other nations; not when we rely on incarceration to an extent unparalleled in the history of democratic societies; not when almost six million Americans can't vote because they were convicted of a felony
; not when one of every 32 adult Americans are under the supervision of the criminal justice system, with all the indignities, discriminations and disadvantages that that entails; and not when the tens of billions of dollars spent each year incarcerating fellow citizens displaces expenditures on education, research and non-incarcerative infrastructure.
James Webb, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate for the past six years, said it well: "There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice."
During President Obama's first term, I occasionally had opportunity to ask senior White House aides why the president was so silent on this issue. Some simply said he had to focus on other priorities. Others suggested that his being the first black president made him particularly wary of taking the issue on given the extraordinary extent to which over-incarceration in this country is about race and the mass incarceration of black men. But wasn't that precisely the reason, or at least a key reason, I asked, why President Obama needed to address the issue, and needed to provide the leadership that only he could provide. Maybe in a second term, they replied.
Well, that second term is now -- and what the president says tonight is going to frame his proactive agenda for the next four years. "Millions of lives," he said; millions of American lives "being destroyed or distorted because we haven't fully thought through our process." If ever there was a time and an issue for President Obama to assert his moral leadership, this is it.
Say it, Mr. President, please say it now.Follow Ethan Nadelmann on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EthanNadelmann
~I love that William Lacy Clay signed a bill in 2008 "accidentally" but it ended up being a good thing for him politically! ss
By Chris Goo@c_goodFollow on Twitter
Feb 8, 2013 4:31pm
Image credit: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images
A new effort is under way in Congress to legalize marijuana.
After Colorado and Washington became the first two states to approve the sale and use of pot, marijuana advocates are turning their eye toward the federal government – something they don’t often do.
Members of Congress will introduce between eight and 10 bills to roll back federal marijuana restrictions and levy new taxes.
The first two were introduced this week by two liberal members of Congress. Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., on Monday rolled out a pair of bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, while still allowing states to ban it.
Polis’s bill, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, would remove marijuana from the list of banned substances under the Controlled Substances Act and regulate pot under a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. Marijuana growers would have to buy permits to offset the costs of federal oversight.
Blumenauer’s bill, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, would levy a 50-percent excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, typically from growers to processors or sellers, plus annual “occupation taxes” of $1,000 and $500 on marijuana growers and anyone else engaged in the business.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., meanwhile, plans to introduce another marijuana bill sometime soon. He’s the only Republican to formally support either Polis or Blumenauer as a cosponsor.
Blumenauer’s office confirmed that a slew of bills are on the way.
“We are in the process of a dramatic shift in the marijuana policy landscape,” Blumenauer said in a prepared statement on Monday.
He may be right. Marijuana legalizers enjoyed unprecedented success in 2012, hitting on their two major legalization initiatives at the state level in Colorado and Washington. Since then, bills have been introduced to roll back marijuana restrictions in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
It’s unlikely Congress will legalize pot anytime soon, despite polls showing broader public acceptance of pot. In December, 64 percent of Gallup respondents
said they don’t want the federal government stepping in to prevent pot legalization in states that allow it. In November, another nationwide Gallup poll showed that 48 percent think marijuana should be legal, while 50 percent think it shouldn’t be.
But Polis’s bill only has 11 cosponsors and must make its way through the Republican-controlled House Agriculture Committee. Blumenauer’s has two and must make its way through the GOP-controlled House Ways and Means Committee.
What’s significant about the new push, however, is that it comes on the heels of actual state-level policy change. State and federal laws now thoroughly conflict on the topic of marijuana, and never before has Congress considered legalization in that context.
In fact, Congress rarely considers marijuana legalization at all. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project considers a 2011 effort by then-Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, to have been the first serious effort to end marijuana “prohibition” at the federal level. That bill went nowhere. Before that, Frank pushed a bill in 2008 that mostly decriminalized marijuana federally. In a Democratic Congress, that bill died in committee. One of its seven cosponsors signed on by accident
The present effort appears more coordinated. Along with their bills, Polis and Blumenauer released a 20-page white paper on the history of marijuana’s illegality. It’s the first time pot legislation has been introduced in such a multi-bill wave.
For decades, marijuana advocates have pushed medical-pot laws and decriminalization measures through state ballot initiatives and state legislatures. The federal push, unlikely as it may be, represents a new prong in their strategy.
|Jan. 22, 2013 12:40 pm
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled today in favor of the DEA's decision to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug--a classification for substances that are highly addictive and have no widely accepted medical benefits.
"On the merits, the question before the court is not whether marijuana could have some medical benefits,"reads the court's ruling inAmericans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration
. Rather, the court was tasked with deciding whether the DEA was following its own rules in refusing to initiate reschedule proceedings for marijuana.
According to the appeals court, the DEA was following its own rules (there are five in all) when it claimed that petitioners for rescheduling marijuana had failed to provide "adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy."
Americans for Safe Access in turn argued "that their petition to reschedule marijuana cites more than two hundred peer-reviewed published studies demonstrating marijuana’s efficacy for various medical uses, and that those studies were largely ignored by the [DEA]."
"At bottom," the court wrote, "the parties' dispute in this case turns on the agency’s interpretation of its own regulations. Petitioners construe 'adequate and well-controlled studies' to mean peer-reviewed, published studies suggesting marijuana’s medical efficacy. The DEA, in contrast, interprets that factor to require something more scientifically rigorous."
How much more rigorous? "The DEA interprets 'adequate and well-controlled studies' to mean studies similar to what the Food and Drug Administration requires for a New Drug Application."
The discussion of medical studies starts on page 21 of the brief. You can read the entire ruling below: Americans for Safe Access v. DEA