Alibi V.28 No.17 • April 25-May 1, 2019 

Baked Goods

Driving Discourse

NM case raises intoxication questions

Baked Goods logo
Rob M.

As we make the increasingly inevitable slide toward legalization, more nitty gritty (and sobering) details about marijuana policy are being raised. We're seeing more eye-level and frank discussions about subjects like banking for cannabis companies and pre-employment drug testing policy reform. Conversations about the role cannabis might play in the development of psychoses and its negative effects on drivers are only beginning to enter the head space of proponents.

I don't usually cover crime cases in this space, but a recent New Mexico court ruling highlighted some prevalent issues surrounding “drugged driving.”

Last week a Rio Arriba County jury acquitted a Hernández man of vehicular homicide. Jeffery Atencio was accused of driving under the influence of marijuana in 2012, resulting in the death of an Edgewood woman. Vehicular homicide DWI reportedly carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

This case was especially interesting because it might be the first DWI in New Mexico's history in which the only impairing substance involved was cannabis. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Chief Public Defender Ben Baur said cases where marijuana is cited as a contributing factor to impairment are frequent, but he couldn't remember any where it was the only factor.

According to officers on the scene of the accident, Atencio’s “words were slurred and his mouth was white around the lips.” Authorities said he was unsteady and performed poorly on a field sobriety test. Officers found a used pipe in Atencio’s pocket when they arrested him, and he admitted that he had smoked marijuana hours earlier in the day.

Atencio’s defenders argued that there wasn't enough evidence of impairment and that their client hadn't shown any signs of erratic driving before the accident occurred. “In this case, my client basically didn’t check his mirror a second time,” public defender Sydney West told reporters. “The state did not have an expert and did not have evidence to prove the impairment.”

The problem is that proving that someone was impaired by marijuana use isn't as easy as it is with alcohol. Currently, no test exists that can reliably prove if someone is under the influence or not. The presence of THC can be detected in the body for weeks or even months after the effects have gone away. There's also a serious lack of understanding when it comes to tolerance differences between non-regular and regular users.

Apparently, this is becoming more commonly known, since the jury decided to go with the lesser crime of careless driving, a petty misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail.

While New Mexico has yet to set a legal limit of impairment on THC consumption, Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active THC in their whole blood can be prosecuted for DUI. Opponents of the law argue that there is no scientific basis for the limit and have been trying to develop more stringent alternatives.

Regular Canna Users and Sedation

A small study conducted by researchers at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., was released last week that found that regular cannabis users can require up to twice the the normal level of sedation as non-users during surgical procedures.

The paper, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, analyzed data from the medical records of 250 people who underwent endoscopic procedures after 2012 (the year Colorado legalized recreational marijuana). According to the study, patients who smoked or ate cannabis on a daily or weekly basis required more medication to achieve optimum sedation.

This finding highlights why it's so important to be honest with you physician about your cannabis use. In this day and age, a doctor giving you the stink eye over smoking marijuana should be forced to eat their license. If you find you have issues when you bring it up, then it's probably time to find another doctor.

Strain Corner

Last week I stuck my head in at Minerva Canna (7103 Fourth Street NW Bldg. M) and found the place was eerily quiet—a situation I've never encountered there before. Seems everyone was saving up for the big 420 sale and I was the only sucker still making the rounds the day before.

I luxuriated in all the space and took my time choosing flower. I landed on Kosher Tangie (THC: 18.7%—$10/gram) which smelled strongly of its parent strain Tangie. Most Tangie derivatives I've come into contact with were sativa-dominant hybrids, but this one was surprisingly indica-dominant according to the listing. I was very curious.

The taste was also more reminiscent of Tangie than its other parent, Kosher Kush—sour and citrusy with a skunky bite. I immediately noticed the indica effects of this strain (maybe because I was looking for them). My body relaxed quickly and I experienced a pleasant buzzing sensation accompanied by a noticeable release of pressure around my sinuses that I hadn't even been aware of.

Even with the pleasant body highs I was experiencing, though, I still didn't feel the couch lock or heady sleepiness I generally associate with indicas. In fact, a noted improvement in my mood was probably the most long-lasting and impressive effect.

It seemed like a pretty well-rounded hybrid in my experience. I'd imagine it's particularly useful for those suffering from pain, and especially from depression resulting from chronic pain.

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