Reduction of “per se” alcohol impairment level to 0.05% in Oregon a good thing?

What do people think of reducing the blood alcohol limit in Oregon from 0.08% to 0.05%? Currently in Oregon 0.05% BAC DUI cases are prosecuted under the “impaired” prong of the DUI law. This means prosecutors must prove that the defendant was impaired at the time of driving, in other words that their physical and mental abilities were adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree due to the alcohol consumed. Under this proposal, the prosecution would only need to prove that the BAC is 0.05% or greater for a DUI conviction, regardless of whether the person demonstrated any signs of impairment. The report below has prompted states to re-evaluate whether the BAC limit should be reduced to 0.05% and Utah has already lowered it. In Utah the food and beverage industry posted a billboard saying “Utah: come for vacation, leave on probation.”

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All uniformed Eugene police officers will be required to wear body cameras starting today. Body camera footage can often be helpful when defending criminal charges.

Officers begin wearing body cameras this week

All police officers at EPD will operate the cameras starting June 22, 2017. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. — The future is now for the Eugene Police Department and officer-worn body cameras.

All police officers at EPD will operate the cameras starting Thursday, June 22

We spoke with Eugene Police officials about the cameras and how officers believe they’ll help police do a better job as modern technology meets the cops in the field, full force.

If every police officer’s interaction with the public were video-recorded, would it change behavior on either side of the lens?

Police are set to find out.

“Eugene PD is rolling out a full program for all 170 officers to wear body cams,” says Officer Sean Dillon. “A nearly quarter-of-a-million-dollar federal grant is paying for the technology.”

Body cams for cops became a national issue two years ago with high profile officer involved shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

“Anything we can do to provide transparency to the people we’re serving is a benefit to everybody,” Officer Dillon says.

But use of body cams by some Eugene officers began a little earlier.

Eugene PD began its early experiment with the body cams in 2013. For the early program, nine downtown officers and seven traffic control cops were given the units.

With good reviews of the trial program, police applied for and received a grant from the Department of Justice.

“So it’s not recording; it’s an actual live view,” Dillon says, “which is a nice safety thing if we use that.”

Officers can pull the cam off its anchor and feed live video to their smart phones, a tool used for conducting searches.

“You don’t want to necessarily stick your head up into an attic,” says Dillon. “Yeah, you could have your partner hold your phone.”

Bottom line, Dillon believes the body cams will provide views of police contacts from both sides of the badge and boost officer safety.

“It’s definitely going to be an upgrade in our ability to explain what’s going on and then show people what’s going on,” Dillon says.

He explained the videos taken will be saved for different lengths of time, some of them for up to five years on the most serious cases.

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Interesting article on local DUII case.

Carly Gabrielson counts her blessings.

About two weeks ago, while driving during the early morning hours on Randy Papé Beltline near Division Avenue in Eugene, she was forced to make a split-second decision that probably saved her life and the life of an alleged drunken driver.

“I am very, very thankful,” the 30-year-old said. “And I am thankful my mom taught me defensive driving, because that night it possibly saved my life.”

About 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 18, the campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., was driving her silver Acura west on Beltline. Suddenly, a pair of headlights appeared, heading toward her in the wrong direction.

A suspected drunken driver, 21-year-old John Raymond Player IV, is believed to have driven onto the highway using an offramp as an onramp somewhere west of River Road. Then, he allegedly drove his Subaru Legacy east in the westbound lanes of Beltline toward Division Avenue.

“It was just a wave of sickening panic,” Gabrielson recalled last week, her voice shaking.

Seconds later, west of the Division Avenue exit, Player’s Subaru crashed into Gabrielson’s Acura.

“I closed my eyes, and I wasn’t really sure what the outcome was going to be,” she said. “I was very relieved when I opened my eyes and I realized that I was OK.”

Miraculously, Gabrielson survived the crash, as did Player, of Sweet Home, who was arrested that morning on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants and taken to the Lane County Jail.

According to Oregon State Police records, Player had a .14 percent blood-­alcohol content at the time of the crash. The case has been referred to the Lane County District Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges. Court records indicate those charges have yet to be filed.

Gabrielson said an Ore­gon State Police trooper, the first to arrive on scene, told her that he’d never seen someone walk away from such a serious crash.

Now, Gabrielson is hoping to use her experience to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

In 2016, Eugene police made 709 DUII arrests, including arrests made in the first few hours of Sunday, down from 737 arrests made the year before.

When Gabrielson recalled the crash, she credited a split-second decision with saving her life.

After leaving a Christmas gathering with friends, Gabrielson was driving home to the River Road area when she saw the headlights coming toward her.

As Player’s car approached her car, which was in the left lane, she remembered at least one other vehicle in the right lane somewhere behind her. Because of that, she swerved at the last second to the left — toward the concrete center barrier — instead of toward the right, where the other vehicle may have been. That maneuver caused Player’s vehicle to hit the passenger side of her car instead of head-on.

Player’s Subaru ripped off her front right wheel and wheel well, demolishing the passenger side of her vehicle.

Player ran over to her car immediately after the crash, Gabrielson recalled, “and helped me get out. The first thing I remember is how young he was. It was cold and he was holding me, and we were both in shock. I could smell alcohol on his breath. He said he didn’t realize he was on the wrong side (of the highway). He mentioned drinking at a bar. He seemed to be so relieved that I was OK. I don’t know how he was expecting to find me, honestly.”

Gabrielson, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffered some pain and is undergoing physical therapy. Otherwise, she was shaken but unscathed.

Player didn’t have a driver’s license or car insurance, Gabrielson said.

When reached by phone last Friday, Player declined to discuss the details of his criminal case, but he acknowledged the crash. “I made a mistake, and I am just really glad she’s all right,” he said.

Player said he is working in Louisiana. It’s unclear when he will be arraigned.

“It’s a miracle she survived,” Gabrielson’s mother, Victoria Gabrielson, said. “People really need to be aware. Not just of themselves and their choices, but (Player) said he had just left a bar. What about the bar owners? And the servers? Shouldn’t they be responsible to at least call a taxi?”

Carly Gabrielson said Player “made some really bad decisions, and going into the new year I think it’s important to reflect on the duty we all have to make sure we all are maintaining healthy driving habits. And if others are drinking, the ones serving them need to be aware of how this can impact others.”

She said that when she’s behind the wheel, she tries to stay focused on driving.

“In this day and age of so much distraction, we all have things pulling at us in all directions, whether it’s a phone call or a Starbucks coffee,” she said. “We all think we can just multitask, which is true, but this happened so quickly. And when it does happen, you definitely want to have the wherewithal to make a decision, which could make the difference between life or death.”

Gabrielson said she hopes to use her experience to educate and advocate for safe driving habits. She’s also hoping to use the skills she has utilized as being DeFazio’s campaign manager to help another organization — Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She plans to become involved with the group in the new year.

“I realized a lot of the people involved in that organization are volunteers, and they do it because they’ve been personally impacted or had a violent encounter,” she said.

Dec. 18 wasn’t the first time drunken driving has affected Gabrielson’s life, she said.

Gabrielson’s longtime friend was arrested for drunken driving when Gabrielson was 19 years old. The friend had been involved in a car crash in south Eugene that paralyzed a woman, she said. He spent 3½ years in prison for it, she said.

Gabrielson, a graduate of the University of Ore­gon and South Eugene High School, said she had thought that her friend’s crash would be the closest drunken driving would come to affecting her.

She now knows she was wrong, and hopes to prevent others from being impacted the way she was — or worse.

“I’m very, very fortunate,” she said.

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In a strange juxtaposition, the federal DEA announced today that there will be an increase in the supply of marijuana available for scientific research while simultaneously denying a request to remove it from the Schedule 1 list, meaning that from their perspective marijuana has no currently accepted medical use, is highly addictive and is of the most dangerous type of drug. This means that for the time being the feds will continue to classify (and prosecute) marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD and MDMA. Meanwhile highly addictive prescription painkillers such as oxycodone remain on the lesser Schedule 2 list.

From the Washington Post:

U.S. affirms its prohibition on medical marijuana

By Lenny Bernstein August 11 at 11:00 AM

Marijuana plants growing at a Minnesota Medical Solutions greenhouse in Otsego, Minn., last year. The crop is part of the state’s medical marijuana supply. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune/AP)
This post has been updated.

The government refused again Thursday to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, reaffirming its conclusion that the drug’s therapeutic value has not been proved scientifically and defying a growing clamor to legalize it for the treatment of a variety of conditions.

In an announcement in the Federal Register and a letter to petitioners, the Drug Enforcement Administration turned down requests to remove marijuana from “Schedule I,” which classifies it as a drug with “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States and precludes doctors from prescribing it.

The decision keeps the federal government at odds with 25 states and the District of Columbia, which have passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana to some degree. Members of Congress have called for its reclassification and on Wednesday, the National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution asking the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule I.

“Right now, the science doesn’t support it,” Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview Thursday. Citing a lengthy analysis conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, he said the decision “is tethered to the science.”

The agency announced one policy change that could increase the amount of research conducted on marijuana: the DEA will expand the number of places allowed to grow marijuana for studies of its value in chronic pain relief, as a treatment for epilepsy and for other purposes. Currently, only the University of Mississippi,which holds an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is federally licensed to grow marijuana for research purposes.

The latest development in the 46-year legal and policy battle over the status of marijuana disappointed advocates of looser restrictions on the drug, who had hoped that the government would carve out a special place for marijuana in the controlled-substance regulations or move it to a less tightly regulated category, Schedule II.
[25 states call marijuana ‘medicine.’ Why doesn’t the DEA?]

In the words of a 2015 Brookings Institution report, a move to Schedule II “would signal to the medical community that [the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health] are ready to take medical marijuana research seriously, and help overcome a government-sponsored chilling effect on research that manifests in direct and indirect ways.”

But as it has in previous reviews, marijuana again failed an analysis conducted by the FDA and NIDA. The FDA concluded that medical and scientific data do not yet prove that marijuana is safe and effective as a medicine. Legally, that prohibits the DEA from reclassifying the drug.

“We’re pleased to see that the Obama Administration … understands the science the way we and almost every single medical association in the country understand it,” said Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes loosening restrictions on marijuana.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) praised the decision to allow more facilities to cultivate marijuana for research, but said the decision doesn’t go far enough. “This decision … is further evidence that the DEA doesn’t get it. Keeping marijuana at Schedule I continues an outdated, failed approach — leaving patients and marijuana businesses trapped between state and federal laws,” Blumenauer said.

The shifting world of marijuana Play Video5:13
PostTV travels to the county in West Virginia with the highest-rate increase in marijuana possession arrests to see how pot laws have affected communities. (Gabe Silverman/The Washington Post)
Schedule I drugs — which include LSD and heroin, as well as marijuana — have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Schedule II drugs, such as the powerful narcotic painkillers that have caused an epidemic of addiction over the past decade, have medicinal value but “a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Marijuana was placed in Schedule I in 1970, when Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act.

[Brookings says government is stifling medical marijuana research]

Research has shown that some components of marijuana have promise as a treatment for epilepsy and chronic pain. Some people use it to relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, although research has not been conducted to prove its value for that condition.

Rosenberg said that while individual researchers may have shown that marijuana or its extracts are helpful for certain conditions, the FDA has the most comprehensive view of the state of scientific research on the drug.

“The FDA knows this better than anyone on the planet,” he said, though he acknowledged that “a lot of people will disagree with that.”

He also noted that many people misconstrue the controlled substance scheduling regime as a ranking of drugs’ relative dangers. Clearly, he said, marijuana is not as dangerous as heroin, LSD and perhaps some of the opioids in Schedule 2. “It’s not the Richter Scale,” he said. But that doesn’t mean cannabis and its extracts are safe for medical use and not prone to abuse, he added.

Academic researchers have complained that registration and application requirements to work with Schedule I drugs make studying their purported benefits difficult. The DEA, however, says the number of researchers registered to study marijuana and its components has doubled in the past two years.

The governors of Rhode Island and Washington, and a New Mexico resident, Bryan A. Krumm, petitioned the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I. The agency most recently rejected a similar request in 2011, touching off a legal battle to force reclassification in which the DEA ultimately prevailed.

With so many states allowing the use of cannabis components for health reasons, Rosenberg acknowledged the conflict with the federal government’s posture. But he said prescribers need not fear that the announcement signals a federal crackdown.

“We are not changing our enforcement priorities,” he said.

It is unclear how many more facilities would be allowed to grow marijuana for researchers under the new rules. But the government signaled its intent to end the effective monopoly on cultivation maintained by NIDA and the University of Mississippi, officials said. That would allow a greater supply and a wider variety of products for research. Growers would apply to DEA, not NIDA, for permission to cultivate.

“If petitioners meet our criteria, and they can assure us that this stuff can be handled safely and securely,” they likely will be given permission to cultivate marijuana for research purposes, he said.

[Drug derived from cannabis shows promise for children with epilepsy]

The new policy also contains a “statement of principles” that reminds growers of the provisions of a 2014 law that governs the use of industrial hemp. The plant is a cannabis variant that contains a low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s impact on the brain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on In a strange juxtaposition, the federal DEA announced today that there will be an increase in the supply of marijuana available for scientific research while simultaneously denying a request to remove it from the Schedule 1 list, meaning that from their perspective marijuana has no currently accepted medical use, is highly addictive and is of the most dangerous type of drug. This means that for the time being the feds will continue to classify (and prosecute) marijuana in the same category as heroin, LSD and MDMA. Meanwhile highly addictive prescription painkillers such as oxycodone remain on the lesser Schedule 2 list.

AAA weighs in on the science and evidence being used to convict drivers of DUI marijuana.

WASHINGTON — Six states that allow marijuana use have legal tests to determine driving while impaired by the drug that have no scientific basis, according to a study by the nation’s largest automobile club that calls for scrapping those laws.

The study commissioned by AAA’s safety foundation said it’s not possible to set a blood-test threshold for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high, that can reliably determine impairment. Yet the laws in five of the six states automatically presume a driver guilty if that person tests higher than the limit, and not guilty if it’s lower.

As a result, drivers who are unsafe may be going free while others may be wrongly convicted, the foundation said.

‘Approach is flawed’

The foundation recommends replacing the laws with ones that rely on specially trained police officers to determine if a driver is impaired, backed up by a test for the presence of THC rather than a specific threshold. The officers are supposed to screen for dozens of indicators of drug use, from pupil dilation and tongue colour to behaviour.

The foundation’s recommendation to scrap the laws in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington comes as legislatures in several more states consider adopting similar laws.

At least three states, and possibly as many as eleven, will also vote this fall on ballot measures to legalize marijuana for either recreational or medicinal use, or both. Several legislatures are also considering legalization bills.

“There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner we do alcohol,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research.”

Determining whether someone is impaired by marijuana, as opposed to having merely used the drug at some time, is far more complex than the simple and reliable tests that have been developed for alcohol impairment.

There’s no science that shows drivers become impaired at a specific level of THC in the blood. A lot depends upon the individual. Drivers with relatively high levels of THC in their systems might not be impaired, especially if they are regular users, while others with relatively low levels may be unsafe behind the wheel.

The study said it’s not possible to set a blood-test threshold for THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high, that can reliably determine impairment. (Getty Images)

Some drivers may be impaired when they are stopped by police, but by the time their blood is tested they have fallen below the legal threshold because active THC dissipates rapidly. The average time to collect blood from a suspected driver is often more than two hours because taking a blood sample typically requires a warrant and transport to a police station or hospital, the foundation said.

In addition, frequent marijuana users can exhibit persistent levels of the drug long after use, while THC levels can decline more rapidly among occasional users. Nine states, including some that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, have zero-tolerance laws for driving and marijuana that make not only the presence of THC in a driver’s blood illegal, but also the presence of its metabolites, which can linger for weeks after use.

That makes no sense, said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a New York University professor specializing in issues involving drugs and criminal policy. “A law against driving with THC in your bloodstream is not a law you can know you are obeying except by never smoking marijuana or never driving,” he said.

He said rather than switching to a new kind of law as AAA recommends, states should consider simply making it a traffic violation.

Driving with ‘noisy child’ equally dangerous

Studies show that using marijuana and driving roughly doubles the risk of a crash, Kleiman said. By comparison, talking on a hands-free cellphone while driving — legal in all states — quadruples crash risk, he said. A blood alcohol content of .12, which is about the median amount in drunken driving cases, increases crash risk by about 15 times, he said.

Driving with “a noisy child in the back of the car” is about as dangerous as using marijuana and driving, Kleiman said.

The exception is when a driver has both been using marijuana and drinking alcohol because the two substances together greatly heighten impairment, he said.

The foundation also released a second study that found the share of drivers in fatal crashes who had recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized it for recreational use in December 2012. From 2013 to 2014, the share of drivers who had recently used marijuana rose from 8 per cent to 17 per cent.

While it stopped short of blaming the crashes on that increase, AAA traffic safety director Jake Nelson said traffic fatalities went up 6 per cent in Washington during that same period while the fatalities nationally declined.

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Interesting summary of legislation introduced in 2015 to combat driving under the influence of marijuana. Introduced laws include not requiring an officer to have a warrant to draw blood and a reintroduction of DUI sobriety checkpoints, which have been considered an unconstitutional search in Oregon since the 1980’s. The progress of bills can be tracked at

Multiple DUII Bills Introduced In Oregon, Aimed At Marijuana Drivers
Posted by Johnny Green at 6:52 PM on February 25, 2015
Ending Marijuana Prohibition, Medical Marijuana Policy

No one should drive when they have consumed too much marijuana. A responsible person knows if they are impaired from marijuana or not, and whether they are too impaired to operate a motor vehicle. With that being said, marijuana stays in your system for weeks after consumption, and current approaches to detecting if someone is a stoned driver can’t differentiate whether a person has consumed marijuana prior to getting behind the wheel, or weeks prior.

And even if there was a way to differentiate, such as determining how much active THC is in a person’s blood, there isn’t a per se limit in Oregon like there is with alcohol. If you have a blood alcohol level of .08 in Oregon as an adult and you are caught driving, you are passed the threshold of what Oregon law recognizes as being too intoxicated. Oregon’s Implied Consent law doesn’t list a limit like that for marijuana. These are factors that Oregon’s Legislature is trying to tackle right now, and it appears that politicians are using this as an opportunity to overhaul Oregon’s DUII laws.

Right now in Oregon, drawing blood for DUII purposes requires a warrant, unless you were involved in a serious accident and the hospital gives law enforcement a sample of your blood while you are there. Imagine if that changed, and law enforcement no longer needed a warrant. That’s what would happen with Oregon House Bill 3170. The bill adds blood to the Implied Consent law, meaning that if you are on a public road, your consent to a blood draw is already implied. If you refuse the blood draw, whether you have marijuana in your system or not, you automatically lose your license for a year. That’s the type of stuff that gives me nightmares. The bill is so poorly written that it doesn’t even state what the failing limit would be for marijuana, or any substance, just that they can draw your blood and test it and use it as evidence at court if you try to fight it. Or again, if you refuse, you automatically lose your license for a year.

If that bill wasn’t bad enough, there’s also Oregon House Bill 2371. The summary on the bill is as follows:

Provides that evidence of test administered, or observation made, by police officer as part of drug recognition evaluation is admissible in judicial or administrative proceeding if certain conditions are met.

That doesn’t sound too scary, if the rules around testing and observations are fair. But who gets to make the rules you ask? Again referring to the bill:

The Department of State Police by rule shall establish the tests and observations required for drug recognition evaluations that are used for the purpose of determining whether a person is under the influence of intoxicants.

So let’s say both of these bills pass and are implemented. The cops can ask you to get out of a car, give you whatever test the Oregon State Police determine is a good way to accuse you of being under the influence of marijuana, can then draw your blood without a warrant, and use it against you in court. And if you object and refuse to any of that, you automatically lose your license.

Add to this situation Oregon Senate Bill 13. DUII checkpoints have been illegal in Oregon since the 1980’s. But if Senate Bill 13 is approved, DUII checkpoints would be legal again. Senate Bill 13 would require a change to Oregon’s Constitution, so it would first have to be referred to voters, but just the thought that I would have to go through one of those ever in my life, completely sober, but I have THC in my blood stream…That would be about the time that I give up driving and start walking everywhere. That is a horrible scenario.

If you live in Oregon, contact your Senator and Representative and let them know that this is unacceptable. This affects even people that don’t consume marijuana. People that have done nothing wrong shouldn’t be subjected to blood draws because an officer has an unproven hunch that they may have marijuana in their system at a DUII checkpoint. There are a lot of lobbyists working on marijuana policy this session at the Oregon Capital (17 I heard last). I hear about a lot of them working on the business side of marijuana policy, but I haven’t heard too many people talking about these pieces of legislation. We need all hands on deck friends. Contact your legislators, and tell everyone else you know to do the same.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Interesting summary of legislation introduced in 2015 to combat driving under the influence of marijuana. Introduced laws include not requiring an officer to have a warrant to draw blood and a reintroduction of DUI sobriety checkpoints, which have been considered an unconstitutional search in Oregon since the 1980’s. The progress of bills can be tracked at

Interesting article regarding increased DUI marijuana arrests in Oregon. Cities throughout Oregon are ramping up their DUI marijuana enforcement programs, including Eugene and Springfield.

Oregon grapples with pot, driving

Created on Thursday, 06 August 2015 06:04 | Written by Jennifer Anderson | Print
TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ – Portland Police Sgt. David Abrahamson, who oversees the bureaus fatal crash team, talks with a truck driver he stopped for speeding on I-5 one recent night. Officers statewide are getting refreshed in training to recognize and evaluate drug-affected motorists since recreational marijuana legalization in Oregon.
TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ – Portland Police Sgt. David Abrahamson, who oversees the bureaus fatal crash team, talks with a truck driver he stopped for speeding on I-5 one recent night. Officers statewide are getting refreshed in training to recognize and evaluate drug-affected motorists since recreational marijuana legalization in Oregon.

You wouldn’t know it from a Cheech and Chong video, or any of the “Animal House”-like stereotypes out there — but driving high may be more dangerous than it seems.

That’s what police and transportation officials have found in Colorado and Washington since their recreational marijuana laws took effect.

Both states have seen their number of Driving Under the Influence charges skyrocket, and continue to see marijuana-related crashes and fatalities pile up.

Oregon public safety officials now are bracing for the same trend.

“Everybody’s worried, for sure,” says Deena Ryerson, Oregon’s assistant attorney general and Oregon’s DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants) resource prosecutor. “The statistics in Colorado and Washington are very clear. There was a marked increase in marijuana-related DUIs. We have to assume it’s going to be the same in Oregon.”

Sgt. David Abrahamson, who oversees the Portland Police Bureau’s fatal crash team, also is concerned.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of fatals and crashes in the next few years,” he says. “That’s just sad. From my perspective, it’s tough knocking on that door at 3 or 4 a.m. and saying ‘Look, your loved one passed on.’”

Dealing with drivers under the influence of marijuana — often in combination with alcohol and other drugs — is nothing new for police, or the courts.

What will be new, officials say, is the number of people who will be using recreational marijuana for the first time since college or ever, especially once sales become legal in Oregon on Oct. 1.

Things are especially hazy for law enforcement because Oregon’s pot law has one major difference from Colorado and Washington’s: There is no legal limit for marijuana-impaired driving, like the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit for liquor.

Both Colorado and Washington have set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream.

But Oregon officials say that number is arbitrary, and instead take the stance that “impairement is impairment.”

“We want to make this fit into the alcohol box, but it is not alcohol. It’s a totally different substance,” says Dan Estes, the impaired driving manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

So how do police determine whether to issue a DUII for marijuana?

There are three ways: breath, blood or urine.

Breathalyzers don’t work for pot (not yet, anyway — a Washington State University effort is underway).

Police in Colorado and Washington rely on blood tests, which a judge must issue a warrant for.

The blood test reveals the presence of psychoactive substances and can be an objective measure to back up officers’ observations in court.

In the majority of DUII cases in Oregon, however, police do not rely on blood tests.

Those are reserved for the most serious, fatal crashes, because the state crime lab doesn’t have the capacity, Ryerson says.

Instead, Oregon cops are left testing drivers’ urine.

But the method has its weaknesses.

“Urine (testing) can tell if they’ve smoked in the last 30 days,” Estes says. “It doesn’t prove impairment at the time of arrest. That’s the trouble.”

Because of its unreliability, Oregon public safety officials fall back on the DUII statute language, an officer’s observation of whether the driver is “adversely affected to a noticeable or perceptible degree,” Estes says. “It’s not a number.”

Estes says being able to add blood testing to the state’s implied consent statute, and having the capacity in the state crime lab to test blood in more DUII cases would make a “tremendous difference.”

A bill in the state Legislature this past spring tried to add blood to the statute but failed. It’ll take more public education, Estes says, as policymakers come to understand the issue.

Ryerson is glad Oregon law doesn’t set a legal limit for drivers. She said Oregon took lessons from Colorado and Washington, where police say the blood test result often contradicts the behavior of the driver and presents a confusing case in court.

A driver can be “high as a kite,” Ryerson says,” but still have a blood test lower than the legal limit, because 90 percent of THC in a person’s bloodstream drops after the first hour of smoking.

It then moves to the brain, binds to fat cells and reaches its peak of impairment — but may not necessarily be detected in the blood.

So the 5 nanograms threshold is misleading, Ryerson says: “There’s no one level you can say, ‘OK, this is impairment.’ We don’t want one number.”

Affected judgment

The thought that driving while high presents a big danger is enough to make most people snicker. Many attest it’s safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. Some studies (see sidebar) downplay its effects.

But police, who’ve seen impaired drivers meet tragic fates, say the consequences are too serious to gamble with.

Drugs, including alcohol, “affect people’s judgment of their own ability,” says Oregon State Police Sgt. Evan Sether, who runs the state’s Drug Recognition Expert program.

“People don’t feel intoxicated, don’t feel impaired, because their mind is impaired. There’s not a clear line when it comes to marijuana. It’s a very difficult issue.”

On Portland’s roads, 60 percent of all fatal crashes include at least one party that is impaired, says Abrahamson, Portland’s fatal crash team supervisor.

“Traffic safety is one venue that affects everybody from all walks of life, every socioeconomic group, all ethnic groups,” he says.

Combating stoned driving “needs to be a combined effort on all platforms — judicially, education, community level, law enforcement, department of transportation.”

In Oregon, there are about 20,000 DUII arrests across the state in a given year. About 10 percent of DUII cases involve drugs.

Changing times

Courtney Popp, Washington state’s traffic resource prosecutor, has watched the evolution of her state’s recreational marijuana law since it took effect in December 2012.

She says it’s been an uphill battle educating people that getting behind the wheel after smoking or using marijuana is is more serious than it might seem.

“It’s a nightmare,” she says. “There’s a difference between ‘Should this drug be legal?’ and ‘Is it safe to drive impaired on marijuana?’ Those issues have all been rolled into one.”

A lot of people don’t recognize that a lot of marijuana is more potent than it was five or 10 years ago, Popp says, and don’t have a good handle on how it will affect their body, as people generally do with alcohol.

The use of butane hash oil, edibles and other forms of the drug complicates the picture. “It’s definitely a little terrifying that’s what’s out there,” she says.

Washington state has data pre-legalization and post-legalization. In 2009, 18 percent of DUI drivers in the state tested positive for THC; since 2013, it spiked to 25 percent.

Then again, when recreational sales began in Washington last July, the marijuana-related DUI rate rose to 40 percent of all DUIs.

Colorado has had a similar experience.

Denver Police reported 74 DUI arrests in 2013, 28 of them involving marijuana. That spiked to 120 in 2014, 61 involving marijuana. Sixty percent were marijuana alone; 40 percent were combined with other drugs.

Statewide, Colorado doesn’t have data on pre- and post-legalization, but has seen a slow rise in pot-related cases.

In 2014 the state saw 12 percent of its DUIs related to marijuana; this year, so far, there’s been an uptick to 14 percent, according to Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Rob Madden.

Yet the data doesn’t show the whole picture, officials say.

Marijuana use is vastly underrepresented since the typical gap between traffic stop and blood test — including the transport, evaluation and warrant process — takes between two to four hours. By that time, most of the THC has left the bloodstream.

The biggest change since pot became legal in Colorado, Madden says, is a general acceptance of it.

“We’re no longer seeing people hide it when we stop their vehicle,” he says.

Case in point: On a recent traffic incident Madden recalls stopping two men in a vehicle for speeding on a major highway, and “they had their bong seatbelted in the backseat. The passenger had been partaking quite a bit.”

Once Madden says he determined the driver hadn’t ingested, “the marijuana wasn’t an issue,” he says. He cited the driver for speeding and sent them on their way.

“It’s just different. That’s the reality now. The driver and passenger weren’t hiding anything.”

Additional training

Since Oregon police can’t rely on urine tests alone, police have been focusing on ramping up their training to recognize marijuana-impaired driving.

Oregon State Police has expanded its Drug Recognition Expert training, open to officers statewide through an application process.

The intensive three-week course teaches up to 24 officers at once and is typically held once a year; now a second session will be offered in late August due to increased demand and grant funding.

Since 1995 about 200 officers throughout the state are now trained as Drug Recognition Experts, geographically dispersed so they can respond to a suspected DUII driver as needed.

Using a series of tests, the Drug Recognition Expert evaluates the person’s mental, physical and clinical condition to determine if they’re impaired, whether it’s drug-related or medical, and what drug or combination of drugs are at play.

In 90-95 percent of Drug Recognition Expert cases, urine is sampled, Sether says.

“Any sample — breath, blood or urine — has potential value somehow,” Sether says. “We have to understand the limits of everything we have.”

There’s a classroom portion as well as a field test, involving recruiting volunteers from downtown Portland to be evaluated.

“DREs and instructors go out in pairs and contact people in parks, streets, have conversations,” Sether explains. “Does the person appear to be drug impaired? We explain what we’re doing and ask if they’re willing to help us out.” The volunteers need not give their real names, and are screened to make sure they don’t have psychiatric issues and are not too drunk — under the 0.08 blood alcohol limit.

They sign an implied consent form, and police have seen the same people for years in a row who are genuinely interested in helping out.

“We tell people, we’re not using this for simple possession cases, we want it in the context of impaired driving.”

At the last training, police offered water, Gatorade, sandwiches and the chance to spend time in an air-conditioned room. “We try to treat people with the utmost respect,” Sether says. “It’s been very successful. … We see the human aspect of drugs, drug abuse, addiction, treatment. They have the opportunity to see officers with that level of humanity, too. Both sides walk away with a greater understanding.”

To become certified, officers must pass an eight- to 10-hour written test, and be recertified every two years.

Besides the Drug Recognition Expert training, officers statewide all have had initial training in field sobriety tests, and a state-required course on drugs and impaired driving.

They’re getting refresher courses as needed, and, the state just secured funding for a second traffic safety resource prosecutor, to handle marijuana-related cases.

The state is still in negotiations with the state Department of Justice to sign off on the hire.

The state also is working to streamline the process for high-visibility enforcement events, like Christmas or the Super Bowl, the county fair or a concert, when a jurisdiction might need more presence on the road to combat drunken and drugged driving.

“It’s not marijuana-specific, but our position is ‘impairment is impairment,’” Estes says. “Our officers are going to be trained.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Interesting article regarding increased DUI marijuana arrests in Oregon. Cities throughout Oregon are ramping up their DUI marijuana enforcement programs, including Eugene and Springfield.

Eugene Police Department is working on a policy regarding when and how citizens film officers

Eugene drafts policy on citizens filming police officers

The police commission will meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to review the proposal

Armed with video cameras, cellphones and other devices, citizens who film police are part of a common practice nationwide, especially in the wake of multiple officer-involved shootings and controversies.

In Eugene, police are now looking at a new proposed policy — on “Recording Police Activities by the Community” — that’s designed to protect both citizens’ and officers’ legal rights.

The draft policy notes that citizens “have an unambiguous First Amendment right to record officers in public places, as long as their actions do not interfere with the officer’s duties or the safety of officers or others. Officers should assume that they are being recorded at all times when on duty in a public space.”

“The fact that recording and/or overt verbal criticism, insults or name-calling may be annoying,” the policy adds, “does not of itself justify an officer taking corrective or enforcement action or ordering that recording be stopped.”

The 3-page policy is being considered in part at the urging of civilian advocate Carol Berg Caldwell, who late last year asked the Eugene Police Commission to review how some citizens were allegedly treated while attempting to exercise their right to record police activity.

She stated before both the commission and the city’s Civilian Review Board that she had witnessed three unidentified citizens come before a Eugene Municipal Court judge for arraignment, following arrests for interfering with police, after using a camera in what they felt was a reasonable distance from the situation.

She asked for a policy that would protect citizens’ rights while also defining the “reasonable distance” that citizens must maintain when recording police activity.

Under the draft policy, that distance is left to the discretion of the officer, who must consider the totality of the circumstances regarding the particular police activity.

The police commission will discuss the draft policy at its monthly meeting on Thursday, with time for public comment. Formal policy adoption will come sometime later.

Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said the policy is a generic draft, provided by Lexipol, a national policy database.

Berg Caldwell said she is “really pleased” that the commission is taking up the policy. “I think it’s very reflective of the commission members, who are representatives of the community. It shows they take their tasks seriously.”

The policy notes that in public spaces, citizens “have a right to record things in plain sight or hearing,” including police activity. Citizens do not, however, have a right to enter private property or an established crime scene in order to record, the policy says.

The policy also notes that recording devices generally cannot be seized by police, without the recorder’s consent or absent the arrest of the recorder. In some circumstances, according to the policy, police can seize a recording device if they believe the recording contains evidence of a crime and they have reason to believe that the recording could be destroyed before police can obtain a search warrant affidavit.

Eugene police Sgt. Larry Crompton, a downtown patrol supervisor, said he generally doesn’t care if he’s being recorded — even if he doesn’t always like it.

“There are times when I have been having a consensual conversation, trying to explain something, and a third party comes up and starts recording and that’s annoying because I’m just trying to have a conversation, and even though they’re (in the) right (because) I am in a public place, it’s not a matter of legality at that point. It’s just a matter of respect.

“I think it’s human nature,” Crompton added. “It’s not comfortable to have someone point cameras at you while you are trying to work. It’s legal. But it’s uncomfortable. You aren’t trying to hide anything but you’re self-conscious. But it goes with the profession, you have to get used to it.”

Crompton said he believes having a formal policy will be a good thing, as it will provide greater authority for an officer who asks a citizen to step back. After a policy is adopted, he said, it won’t just be “because I said so.”

Crompton said he encounters a person with a camera about once a day, on average. While many record activities from a distance, others often stick a camera directly in his face, he said.

One size does not fit every situation, and sometimes he allows citizens to record from 3 feet away, he said. Other times, it’s 12 feet.

Some people, he said, often take “one step when you say ‘Step back.’ And then you say, ‘No, I said step back’ and then it’s ‘Well, how many feet?’ And it’s like, seriously? At that point, you are taking away from my ability to focus on what I am doing, just the fact that I even have to address it.

“And then, rather than backing up, it’s ‘Can you explain to me why?’ And they are recording the whole time. They are baiting you into an altercation, and that’s interfering and that’s criminal….”

Matt Lowen, the police department’s policy and accreditation manager, said the “reasonable distance” language is intended to provide flexibility to the situation at hand. Police cannot pinpoint the same exact distance that people must stand back in all situations, he said.

In a SWAT situation, for example, the perimeter is set with a greater distance for the public and the media, in the event that shots are fired or emergency vehicles need to move around, Lowen explained. The distance while recording a person resisting arrest on a sidewalk, however, is shorter but still may be several feet away.

“If I have just one person, resisting, fighting with me, I’m not going to make you be all the way down the block,” Lowen said. “But if you’re not standing back 5 or 10 feet, that’s not safe for me or for you or for the guy I’m arresting.”

Lowen said he doesn’t feel that officers mind being filmed so much as having to sometimes divide their attention between the person being arrested and the person recording the arrest.

The policy says Eugene officers “may not threaten, intimidate or otherwise discourage or interfere with the recording of police activities.” But arrests are permitted of those deemed to be interfering with police, the policy adds.

“Those who are violating the restrictions should be clearly told such and given an opportunity to relocate,” the policy reads. However: “Nothing in this policy suggests an officer must warn a person participating in prohibited activity.”

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @chelseagorrow. Email


When/where: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Kilcullen Room, Police Headquarters, 300 Country Club Road

What: Review of draft policy on citizens filming officers

More information: 541-682-5852

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As alcohol related DUIs are going down, driving on other substances such as marijuana appears to be going up.

Report: Fewer drivers drink, but more use drugs

by JOAN LOWY Associated Press on February 08, 2015 1:38 AM

WASHINGTON — The number of drivers on the road with alcohol in their systems has declined by nearly one-third since 2007, but there has been a large increase in drivers using marijuana and other illegal drugs, a government report released Friday found.

The report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the share of drivers who test positive for alcohol has declined by more than three-quarters since the agency first began conducting roadside surveys in 1973.

But the latest survey, conducted in 2013 and 2014, also found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety. That includes illegal drugs as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications.

The anonymous surveys have been conducted five times over the last 40 years. They gather data in dozens of locations across the country from drivers who agree to participate.

Mark Rosekind, head of the safety administration, credited anti-drunk driving efforts for the decline in drivers who test positive for alcohol, but said “there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash.”

About 8 percent of drivers during weekend nighttime hours were found to have some alcohol in their system, and 1.5 percent were found with .08 percent or higher breath alcohol content — the legal limit in every state. Drivers with any alcohol in their systems and drivers testing greater than .08 were both down by about 30 percent from the previous survey in 2007. Both groups are also down by more than three-quarters since the first survey in 1973.

At the same time, more than 15 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one illegal drug, up from 12 percent in 2007. The number of drivers with marijuana in their systems grew by nearly 50 percent over the same period of time, 8.6 percent in 2007 to 12.6 percent in 2014.

“The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” Rosekind warned.

A second survey, the largest of its kind, assessed the comparative risk of drunk and drugged driving. The study was conducted in Virginia Beach, Virginia, over a 20-month period and involved the collection of data from more than 3,000 drivers involved in a crash, and more than 6,000 crash-free drivers for comparison.

That survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be part of demographic groups at higher risk of crashes generally. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men — a group already at high risk.

“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, the agency’s associate administrator for research and program development.

One complication to assessing crash risk by drivers who have used marijuana is that it can be detected in the human body for hours and sometimes days after the high from smoking has dissipated. Other studies have shown that a marijuana high typically peaks within 30 minutes and is gone within about three hours after ingestion.

But unlike with alcohol, drivers high on pot tend to be aware that they are impaired and try to compensate by driving slowly, avoiding risky actions such as passing other cars, and allowing extra room between vehicles. On the other hand, combining marijuana with alcohol appears to eliminate the pot smoker’s exaggerated caution and to increase driving impairment beyond the effects of either substance alone.

Posted in DUI | Comments Off on As alcohol related DUIs are going down, driving on other substances such as marijuana appears to be going up.

Sobriety checkpoints coming to Oregon?

Sobriety checkpoints could return to Oregon roads


SALEM, Ore. — A familiar weapon in the war on drunk driving could once again be headed for Oregon roadways. While supporters say it’s about saving lives, others argue it puts your personal freedom at stake instead.

The debate surrounds sobriety checkpoints, and it’s one the state has seen before.

While more than three dozen other states currently use sobriety checkpoints, Oregon’s constitution explicitly bans them and has since 1987.

Bringing them back would require a constitutional amendment.

Monday, as the legislative session gets underway and as legalized pot prepares to make its debut, one state senator says he’s prepared to lead the charge.

Senator backs DUII checkpoint billKGW

According to the department of transportation, DUII-related deaths in Oregon have been on the decline, dropping from 138 in 2007 to 56 in 2010. There were 87 in 2011.

Still, State Senator Rod Monroe says even one life lost is one too many.

“It’s the most dangerous thing that we do,” he said.

So, with the help of newly crafted Senate Bill 13, the Portland democrat is reaching back 30 years to a tool once widely used by Oregon law enforcement: Sobriety checkpoints.

Often employed on party-heavy nights like Halloween and New Year’s, the tactic allows authorities to set up road blocks and question drivers at random.

“They look to see if there are any visible signs of impairment,” said Monroe (D-Portland). “Only if there is a visible sign of impairment, would they ask a person to get out of the car and do some testing.”

Monroe says the checkpoints are announced ahead of time, making them more of a deterrent than anything else.

Attorney John Henry Hingson III doesn’t buy it.

“DUI roadblocks are ineffective,” he said. “If you’re going to spend taxpayer money to try to prevent drunk driving, spend it on enforcing the law through a DUI saturation patrol, not a roadblock. This is a dragnet procedure that catches innocent fish in its wide and deep net.”

Mixed reaction to sobriety checkpoints

KGW hit the streets, where public opinion ran the gamut.

“I really have mixed emotions about it,” said Jeannine Lewis. “There are so many terrible accidents and innocent people that are hurt.”

“I wouldn’t be cool with being searched on the street without a good reason, so I feel the same way about being stopped in a car,” said Bert Jepson.

One man that KGW met in a grocery store parking lot shared a personal reason why he supported the bill.

“I’m all for it,” James Cosper said. “Of course I’m all for it. I’m biased because I’m sober, and I know that during my years of drinking and drug use, that I could have killed somebody.”

When asked if he still thinks about that possibility, Cosper responded, “Oh yes, all the time.”

If Monroe has his way and Senate Bill 13 makes it through Oregon’s legislature, the proposal of sobriety checkpoints will go to the voters.

Monroe hopes to have it on the ballot in the 2016 general election.

Posted in DUI | Comments Off on Sobriety checkpoints coming to Oregon?