Joint Effects: Marijuana, Driving and Testing For Impairment

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 10:59
by Dr. Carla Kinslow, Principal Consultant for Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

Please read below Sue Snyder's (CPCU and member of the UIG) summary of this important webinar that was sponsored by the Underwriting Interest Group, September, 26, 2017:

The presenter of the webinar was Dr. Carla J. Kinslow, Principal Consultant for Rimkus Consulting Group Inc.  Dr. Kinslow is a toxicologist with over 26 years of biomedical, regulatory and environmental experience.  Kinslow’s areas of expertise include inhalation toxicology, marijuana, remediation, human health-based risk assessment, toxic mold, lung cancer, vapor intrusion and odor issues.

Kinslow began the webinar discussing the marijuana legalization by state. Each state differs in regards to the legalization of marijuana including if the state allows dispensaries and if the state recognizes patients from other states. There are 44 states with legalized medical marijuana.

Next, statistics were shown which demonstrated an increase in the use of marijuana by age groups 18 to 25 and over 26 years of age.  The age group over 26 showed the greatest increase in marijuana use with 31 states showing significant increases and with no states showing any significant decrease.

The discussion then moved to describing marijuana and current THC potency.  The average THC concentration, per Kinslow, can range from 1% to 29% with a joint ranging from 15-20 mgs THC, and edibles from 10-100mgs. It is often difficult to distinguish when looking at edibles  which are edibles or just strictly a food product.  This presents a danger especially to children. For example, a child eating an edible when thinking it is just gummy bear candy.

Some of the acute health effects explained by Kinslow were: rapid heartbeat, colors and sounds seem more intense, time seems to pass slowly and dry mouth, hunger and thirst. In addition, the psychomotor/neurological effects are: decreased attention, decreased reaction time, decreased motor coordination, impulsivity and difficulty registering, processing and using information.

Our states have various tolerance levels for marijuana.  For example, Colorado has a reasonable inference law for THC and 18 states have zero tolerance or nonzero per se laws. There are four main methods in determining active-metabolite detection: blood, saliva, urine and hair.  The blood test, according to Kinslow, correlates with psychomotor, performance and cognitive functions. Toxicology will help one to evaluate whether alcohol or other drugs were involved in an accident and can help us to understand the potential of marijuana to be a factor.

Kinslow ended the presentation with a summary stating that the use of marijuana is increasing and that research indicates that marijuana use is related to decrements of many skills needed to properly operate a vehicle. Toxicology can help assess the contribution of marijuana and/or alcohol to the accident.

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