Grow, Gift, Repair

Here comes the impaired driving lobby

In the midst of the media blitz about stoned driving, one might think that at least some outlets would note another story from a couple weeks ago, “Massachusetts banned from using [alcohol] Breathalyzer test pending reforms at state police agency.” In that case, a district court judge found that the state’s Office of Alcohol Testing “intentionally withheld important evidence from defense lawyers.”

Yet Baker and DeLeo continue their campaign against legal cannabis, all while pushing for legalized sports betting and not getting called out on their apparent hypocrisy. It’s fitting that the report generated by their special OUI commission packed in nearly 1,500 references to “cannabis” and “marijuana,” but only 877 to “alcohol.”

You might think that state leaders would think twice before pushing new cannabis driving laws that are likely to be challenged in court. Especially if those laws have been backed by law enforcement with an established pattern of withholding information from courts, which can lead to cases getting tossed. You would think it, but then there’s the appointment of people like John Scheft to the state’s OUI commission. A private practice attorney who owns a business with a mission of providing “police officers, supervisors and commanders with clear and comprehensive legal guidance,” and who sells manuals to law enforcement, he unsurprisingly supports adding more state funding for Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). Needless to say, no one in the local media who quotes Scheft brings up this potential conflict of interest.

Since Scheft likes to cite national data to support DREs and testing, I checked with a national expert who has written extensively on the subject. According to Dr. Greg Kane, a court-confirmed expert in the scientific interpretation of the scientific Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and of the scientific drug influence evaluation, “Leaders should understand that the National Academy of Science and academic science recognize that American courts accept forensic ‘science’ evidence that is in fact deeply unscientific, and traffic police sobriety testing fits that pattern.”

Kane adds, “Traffic-police drug influence tests are medical tests made up by traffic policemen, originally adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration without any scientific testing to see whether they actually work. NHTSA teaches officers that the testing they do was “validated” by two studies done by 1) a science-for-money contractor, and 2) an agency employee. NHTSA published these studies in-house, without allowing them to be reviewed by independent scientists checking for gross scientific errors and exaggerations. The studies have never been accepted and published by any scientific journal.

“My own peer-reviewed, journal-published research showed that these studies do not validate the drug influence tests now done by US law enforcement.”

Matt Allen is a field director with ACLU of Massachusetts, a representative on the OUI commission, and chair of the Public Safety and Community Mitigation Subcommittee of the Community Advisory Board for the Cannabis Control Commission. He’s the only rep on the driving commission that actually supported legalization and was the single vote against the majority recommendation.

“Currently there is no test for cannabis that can detect recent use with the reliability and accuracy that the breathalyzer does for alcohol,” Allen says. “Any tests to determine whether a motorist is OUI must be based in science. Motorists shouldn’t be faced with losing their license for refusal to submit to a test that is not scientifically proven to measure impairment.”