In these dark days of science denial, or as some call it, willful ignorance, it’s encouraging when the work of a couple of grad students is taken so seriously that it changes one of the many erroneous laws on marijuana.
Two students at Touro University Nevada came to an important conclusion after their professor instructed the medical jurisprudence class to design a project involving medical law and public health and to participate in a poster competition.
“We were actually drawing a blank on what our project could be… when we read something in the paper about voters going to the polls on recreational marijuana,” said Charles Cullison who worked with Graham Lambert on the class project.
“We started to look into it, and it really developed,” added Cullison.
The pair went on to prove that urine testing drivers for weed, authorized under the state’s DUI laws, did not detect the components in marijuana that could impair drivers.
Cullison, 25, and Lambert, 32, read peer-reviewed journal articles on marijuana from forensic toxicology books and drafted questions they wanted their research to answer.
The two students, who are attending Touro through a military scholarship program, interviewed local police and a police toxicologist, who helped them realize that the Nevada law setting DUI guidelines for marijuana was not based on sound science.
Urine tests, according to Cullison and Lambert, called for under the old law could detect only THC-COOH, which is a non-psychoactive waste product of marijuana that has no correlation with psychomotor impairment and can remain in a person’s system for weeks.
Therefore, pointed out their professor, Dr. Weldon Havins, people could be arrested for marijuana use who hadn’t used it for weeks—and without any evidence of impairment.
Lambert and Cullison’s research and results were so persuasive that Nevada legislators passed a new DUI measure governing testing for marijuana impairment that Governor Brian Sandoval recently signed into law.
The new law took effect on Saturday, when recreational weed in Nevada became legal.
“What the students did is just remarkable,” said Havins, president of the Nevada State Medical Association. “We were talking about criminal law that had been on the books for years in Nevada.”
A blood test is now stipulated to check for delta-9-THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient, and 11-OH-THC, a marijuana metabolite, each of which is associated with cognitive impairment.
Havins helped the two grad students contact state senators, police forensic toxicologists and other relevant lawmakers.
“The students have shown us that things can be done scientifically,” said Nevada assemblyman Steve Yeager, chairman of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. “We’ve just got to continue working to get things right.”