The Shake: Blaming Cannabis for Car Crashes, Testing Fails Consumers, and Arizona Landlords Stink. Happy Friday!Ben AdlinMarch 11, 2016
Are we scapegoating cannabis in car crashes? Researchers in Norway say past studies about THC-positive drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents have failed to adequately control for other variables. In other words, authors have been quick to jump on cannabis as the cause — even when it may not have been. The researchers, who are set to publish their findings in the journal Addiction, reviewed more than 20 driving culpability studies and two meta-analyses published between 1982 and 2015. They adjusted the numbers and found “acute cannabis intoxication” increased crash risk only moderately — by about 20 to 40 percent, or an “odds ratio” of between 1.2 and 1.4. By comparison, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that driving with legal amounts of alcohol in one’s system increases crash risk almost fourfold (an odds ratio of 3.93). Fun fact: Even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency, acknowledges it’s “difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”
Yes, cannabis testing is boring. But it matters. Terms like “proficiency testing” aren’t exactly clickbait, but more and more evidence suggests contaminated cannabis is slipping through the cracks. The latest? Pesticide-laden cannabis on retail store shelves. As Tobias Coughlin-Bogue reports, one Seattle retailer tested a selection of products on his shelves and found pesticides in nearly every single one —sometimes at alarmingly high levels. Coughlin-Bogue has a related piece for Leafly about how Washington testing labs have launched a self-policing organization to hold the industry to a higher standard, but critics are skeptical and wonder why state regulators haven’t been more involved. Can't get enough of cannabis testing? Give a listen to Ganjapreneur’s in-depth conversation with Mark Hubbard, co-founder of Washington-based Integrity Labs.
A friendly reminder: You can still get in trouble for legal cannabis. This might be old news to many, but it’s important to know if you’re, say, an Arizona medical patient at risk of losing your home because your landlord doesn’t allow cannabis use (and most don’t). Vincent Borinsky, who has cancer and hepatitis C, was evicted from an apartment in Mesa, Ariz., for using and growing cannabis. “It’s nowhere near fair,” he told local TV news station KTVK. But it is legal. One important takeaway from the sad situation: The work isn’t over after legalization, especially when the federal government still views all cannabis use as criminal.
What’s up with Massachusetts officials hating on cannabis? Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healy, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh have already come out strongly against legalization in the state (as though there aren’t bigger fish to fry). Now a federal judge has rejected a plea agreement for an 80-year-old man accused of running a multistate cannabis ring. Prosecutors and defense attorneys struck a deal that called for a 5- to 7-year prison sentence for Marshall Dion. But U.S. District Judge Denise Casper rejected the plea agreement, asking why the proposed sentence was so much lower than the 30-year sentence called for under federal sentencing guidelines. As a former legal reporter, I can tell you judges don’t get nearly as much discretion in sentencing as they should. But in this case, Casper had a choice — and botched it. Justice isn’t served by putting Dion in jail until he’s 110.
QUICK HITS: The best thing at CannaCon was a bunch of old photos, at least according to cannabis journo Tobias Coughlin-Bogue, whose links keep sneaking into The Shake. But read the story. He might just be right about the photos. Yolo County, Calif., legalizes outdoor grows. Because YOLO! Data-driven dabs? Not exactly, but a few fledgling firms are slicing and dicing cannabis metrics to help make sense of the newly legal industry. Numbers wonks, eat your hearts out. Don Shearer spent the last 30 years shutting down cannabis operations in Hawaii. Now he wants to open his own dispensary. Naturally. It's not just the NFL that needs to reassess cannabis. Hockey players take hard hits, too. Are you the kind of person itching to know more about cannabis industry labor laws? Daniel Shortt over at Canna Law Blog has your fix. Or would you rather read about cannabis in Spain? Canna Law Blog has that, too (en español, también). And finally, a “weed blog” is hiring. They seem groovy enough, but we’d rather you write for us.