Press Release  | 11/19/2002

Innocent Drivers Could Suffer from White House "Drugged Driving" Initiative, Say Leading Drug Policy Experts

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Marijuana Can Be Detected in Blood Stream for Several Days
Same System to Detect Alcohol in Drivers Should Apply to Illegal Drugs, Experts Say

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) today declared a national "drugged driving" initiative that critics are calling a "sham."

"ONDCP's new initiative is a thinly disguised zero tolerance policy that will do little to detect impaired driving and much to punish responsible citizens for crimes they did not commit," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance. "It will result in treating a responsible driver who smoked a joint a week before he got behind the wheel of a car the same as a drunk driver. That would be both nonsensical and unjust."

In order to ensure safety on the roads without making innocent drivers vulnerable, the Alliance suggests implementing a system similar to the one to detect alcohol, such that law enforcement could detect not just evidence of use, but actual impairment.

"The goal is to ensure safety on the roads," said Nadelmann. "That will not happen by severely punishing someone who smoked a joint in the privacy of their own home the night before."

Under the initiative, a driver who tests positive for illegal drugs, regardless of when they were taken, could lose his driver's license and face severe criminal penalties, even if not actually driving under the influence.

With the prevalence of racial profiling, the Alliance is particularly concerned about African Americans and Latinos being further targeted by this new policy.

"We should make sure those who are driving impaired are punished, whether the cause is alcohol, illegal drugs or medication," said Ethan Nadelmann. "We should not institute more policies that target non-violent citizens who are causing no harm to others."

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Shayna Samuels at 212-613-8037

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