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The Roundup

High Road: Oklahoma’s New Marijuana Law

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Posted 07.23.13

An amendment to the recently passed House Bill 1441 has sparked both confusion and anger among Oklahoma’s marijuana users.

The law details routine traffic violations, but the amendment makes Oklahoma the 10th state to legalize screening drivers for marijuana use. Drivers who fail the test will be charged with a misdemeanor, sentenced to up to one year in jail, and be liable for a fine of up to $1,000.

Blood, urine, and saliva tests will be used to detect any trace amount of THC. Refusal to take a test will result in a license revocation for 180 days.

Public outrage about the legislation stems from confusion of the testing process. Pro-marijuana groups, like the nationwide NORML organization, have publicly denounced the testing process. The groups allege the tests are inaccurate.

A recently published article on NORML’s website claims “the inert carboxy-THC metabolite, a commonly screened for byproduct of THC, possesses a longer half-life in blood and also may be present in the urine of daily cannabis consumers for several weeks, or even months, after past use.”

Mike Turner, the author of House Bill 1441, said that state officials test saliva, blood, or urine only for active metabolites of THC.

Stephen Paulsen, a representative for Turner, said the law targets individuals who drive while high. Responsible marijuana users who refrain from driving during their high will not be held liable for the inactive metabolites which remain in their body, the ones that can be traced for several weeks, he said.

Proponents of such legislation argue that the law could be a catalyst for the legalization of marijuana, since those who test positive for inactive metabolites would not be prosecuted—a small step toward decriminalization, some say.

Paulsen said the motivation behind the marijuana screening amendment was to promote safe driving.

The British Medical Journal has reported that driving under the influence of marijuana doubles the risk of a serious accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a similar report, actively warning against driving under the effects of marijuana.

The pro-marijuana group NORML has publicly downplayed the risks of driving under the influence of marijuana. They claim “the result of this research is fairly consistent… yet it [marijuana use] does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes.”

House Bill 1441 was signed into law on May 24. It goes into effect October 1.