Experts agree Nevada pot test flawed | TahoeDailyTribune.com
Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadappeal.com

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Experts agree Nevada pot test flawed

In this Nov. 1, 2012 file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Tikkun Olam medical cannabis farm, near the northern Israeli city of Safed, Israel.

Law enforcement, drug lab chemists, public defenders and even a DUI victim's advocate all called on lawmakers to change the marijuana driving under the influence laws in Nevada, saying the existing law doesn't test for actual impairment.

Existing law tests for "marijuana metabolytes" and says any concentration above a specific minimal level in the urine or blood stream is proof the driver was high.

But two Touro University California medical students told the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday, March 3, the presence of metabolytes doesn't prove the person was high at the time.

Graham Lambert testified the urine test is completely unreliable. He urged lawmakers to completely remove the urine test from the law.

“The goal is to not cast too wide a net, not run the risk of catching individuals who are not under the influence.”Eric Bauman

He also testified metabolytes aren't evidence of any psycho-active effects and they can remain in the system for days after marijuana use.

The metabolyte test is a holdover from when any use of marijuana was considered illegal.

Charles Collison amplified that testimony saying the psycho-active compounds in marijuana are Delta9-THC and 11-OH-THC. He said the presence of those compounds in a person's blood is evidence of intoxication.

Assembly Bill 135 would change what the state's two law enforcement drug labs actually test for those two compounds.

The medical students told the committee only Henderson currently tests for those compounds, that Las Vegas Metro and Washoe County law enforcement don't.

They were joined by Dan McDonald of the Washoe crime lab who said he has been arguing for years metabolytes don't indicate intoxication.

Asked if the levels of those compounds listed in the bill are an accurate indicator of impairment, McDonald said they are, like the 0.08 level of blood alcohol, "a hard line in the sand" set by the Legislature and that actual impairment differs between individuals.

Former Washoe Lab Toxicologist Bill Anderson testified he agrees metabolytes are "totally inaccurate."

"I have no reservations whatsoever taking that out," he said.

Eric Bauman of the Metro vehicular investigation unit said they too support removal of the urine test and blood testing for the compounds that actually indicate intoxication. He said those compounds listed in AB135 are "much more indicative of the person being under the influence."

"The goal is to not cast too wide a net, not run the risk of catching individuals who are not under the influence," he said.

Asked whether the state's labs can test for those compounds, McDonald and others said they already have the ability and equipment to do the tests.

John Jones, representing the district attorney's association, said that group also supports the legislation.

The legislation even won support from Laurel Stadler, who represents a group supporting DUI victims in Northern Nevada.

"This ensures those victims will have fair and honest prosecution of offenders in these crashes," she said.

The committee took no action on AB135.