AAA: Tests used to determine if driver too high to drive flawed

AAA study warns of dangers of marijuana use and driving
Amanda Candow has MS and would be interested in trying medical marijuana. (Source: WOIO)
Amanda Candow has MS and would be interested in trying medical marijuana. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Ohio House passed a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

The bill would bar patients from smoking the substance, but allow them to use it in vapor form.

Ohioans would not be able to grow it at home.

Under the legislation, a nine-member Medical Marijuana Control Commission would set rules for cultivating, distributing and licensing cannabis.

Communities could opt out of hosting dispensaries.

The Senate plans to begin hearings on the measure Wednesday. View the proposal by clicking here.

But if medical marijuana is passed in Ohio, there could be a big problem in determining whether a person using it is too high to drive.

AAA says a test that Ohio and several other states use is seriously flawed and should be scrapped immediately.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a new study that many current laws pertaining to marijuana and driving are not based on science. View the study by clicking here.

It says setting limits with marijuana should not be the same as the type of limits used to measure drunken driving.

Several states are having problems determining whether a person using marijuana is too high to drive.

Ohioans who could benefit from medical marijuana hope this problem does not stop legalization efforts.

Amanda Candow, 32, of Mentor-on-the-Lake was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis six years ago. Since then, she's tried to manage the pain.

"I have a lot of weakness in my lower body, I was in a wheelchair for nine months," she said.

Candow has some trouble walking and uses a cane to get around. But nothing seems to help her ease the pain.

She hopes medical marijuana becomes legal soon in Ohio.

"All of the conditions I suffer from are treatable by medical marijuana in one thing -- instead of many pills for many things,' Candow said.

But if medical marijuana is legalized, there are still a lot of questions when it comes to patients driving.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found it's not possible to set a blood test threshold for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high.

The study says states should not apply limits in the same way they do for drunken driving.

"That's really the difficult part here. There's really no signs showing that drivers become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood, so it depends on the individual," said Chelsea Pompeani, AAA East Central spokesperson.

The bottom line? AAA says marijuana can greatly impair driving.

"All motorists should avoid using drugs and alcohol while driving," Pompeani said.

But for someone like Candow who would need to use medical marijuana regularly, giving up the car keys is a problem.

"This is people who are legitimately treating medical conditions. They're not trying to get high, they're not trying to cause an accident. But they do have to get to their doctor appointments too," she said.

AAA recommends states use more than blood tests to tell if drivers are impaired by marijuana. They say trained police officers should analyze behavior, too.

The AAA Foundation for Safety says fatal accidents involving drivers who are high, have doubled in Washington since the state legalized marijuana.

Before the drug was legalized for recreational use in 2014, 8 percent of those crashes involved people with marijuana in their system. The following year it was up to 17 percent.

Ohioans for Medical Marijuana tell Cleveland 19 News the study is flawed.

They say patients who use high doses of medical marijuana develop a tolerance, and just because high levels may register in their system, that doesn't mean they are impaired.

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