During the two-year-plus process of developing the Oregon Measure 91 legalization law, I, along with many other advocates involved, were adamant about the fact that there could NOT be a per se THC driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) provision included. The electoral success of the Washington I-502 measure that passed in our northern neighbor with a per se THC DUII law similar to the .08 blood alcohol standard put some pressure on Oregon activists to address driving, but we simply were not going to include an unscientific per se THC DUII law in our marijuana legalization initiative.
Thankfully, Oregon’s voters wisely passed cannabis legalization with over 56% of the vote, understanding that a per se THC DUII law was not needed, but that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods. Unfortunately, the Oregon Legislature has passed some provisions contrary to the intent of Measure 91, most tragically the weakening of the state’s existing medical marijuana program against the wishes of the M91 campaign team, thus, raising legitimate fears that a per se THC law could be passed.
A new report from the Oregon Liquor Control Commision (OLCC), the agency regulating the state’s commercial cannabis and alcohol systems, should put to rest any discussion about the need for a per se THC driving standard. As tasked by state law, the OLCC just issued a report to the Oregon Legislature regarding the issue of driving and cannabis consumption and the regulatory agency wisely recommends against a per se DUII law. From the OLCC’s DUII legislative report:
The body of evidence that does exist indicates that while attitudes towards driving after marijuana use are considerably more relaxed than in the case of alcohol, the risk of crashes while driving under the influence of THC is lower than drunk driving. Little evidence exists to compel a significant change in status quo policy or institute a per se intoxication standard for THC. Instead, recommendations in this report aim to find avenues to change attitudes towards THC and driving among youth, increase the quality and availability of data, and strengthen the body of research.
While I don’t agree with every regulatory decision of the OLCC, I have found the agency very reasonable on cannabis issues and their DUII report is in line with their sensible thinking. The regulatory body examined the available evidence and came away with conclusions that any pragmatic person could agree with-that an unscientific per se THC DUII law is not needed, but we want to develop ways to best everyone, especially minors, about the consequences of driving under the influence of marijuana.
The OLCC refusing to recommend a per se THC DUII law mimics the testimony of Evan Sether, Sergeant with the Oregon State Police and Statewide Coordinator for Oregon’s Drug Evaluation and Classification Program. Sergeant Sether was confident that existing drug recognition techniques were adequate and not per se THC DUII law was needed. Hopefully, this ends the per se THC DUII issue discussion in Oregon, and helps other states avoid the mistake of implementing an unscientific per se THC DUII law as well.
Hat tip to the great Leland Berger of Oregon CannaBusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC, for promptly bringing the OLCC’s report to my, and other Oregon advocates’ attention.