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Enchantment and lack thereof

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Saturday, July 17, 2004

In brief: 
Its been an awesome weekend, John Feltenberger and I got our first keg and it is currently on ice; we hope to drain it very soon.  Last night was John Broz's birthday and many enjoyable liberties were exercised therein.  Tonight, I hope to see everyone wasted, and at least one person puke off my balcony.  If nobody else does it, I WILL! 
In other news:
 I recently wrote a number of legislators about a new bill.  This bill would enable police to require those pulled over to take a drug test.  If the test comes back showing any traces of drugs in the drivers system, he will be charged with DUID, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.  My letter points out the obvious flaws in this system and the terrible injustice it would mean for thousands of unimpaired drivers.  In addition it would be a terrible blow to American civil liberties and just like the Patriot Act, bring us closer to an autocratic police-state.  
The letter: 
Dear So-and-So,
I hope my letter finds you well.  My name is Jeff Friedlander.  I am currently a student at Ohio University here in Athens.  I study Electrical Engineering and I am in my junior year.  This is my first time writing to you and I am excited at the opportunity to communicate with a person of your authority and reputation.  While I am enthralled by this correspondence, I am sorry to say that the topic I choose to discuss is less than pleasant. 
While reading The Athens News today I stumbled upon an article about HR 3922, the Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement Act of 2004.  As you may know, the purpose of this bill is to encourage states to implement drug testing programs for drivers stopped by the police.  You may also be aware that the intent of the bill is to reduce the number of drug-related traffic accidents.  I strongly agree with the motivation behind this bill, driving under the influence of anything is unacceptable and puts others at risk.  Unfortunately, this bill threatens non-impaired drivers, people who may be innocent of driving under the influence.
HR 3922 states "the crime of drug impaired driving is committed when a person operates a motor vehicle while any detectable amount of a controlled substance is present in the person's body"
[1]  It is this clause that concerns me greatly.  Almost all drugs are water soluble; this means that they are detectable by means of urinalysis for only a few days. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States."[2]  Thus it can be interpolated that the majority of drug-impaired drivers are under the influence of marijuana.  People guilty of driving under the influence should be punished to the letter of the law, but what about drivers who are not intoxicated, yet are still guilty of impaired driving based on the definition above?
The drug Marijuana behaves differently from other drugs in that it remains detectable for several weeks after use.
[3]  Therefore a person can test positive for Marijuana consumption long after the intoxicating effects have worn off. The U.S. Department of Labor has concluded that the average duration of Marijuana intoxication is 2-4 hours.[4]  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states, "Most behavioral and physiological effects return to baseline levels within 3-5 hours after [Marijuana] use."[5]  If this is true, then for the days and weeks following a Marijuana session, while the user is not high, his or her drug test will still indicate impaired driving as it is defined in HR 3922. 
There is an obvious problem with the proposed plan of testing drivers for Marijuana intoxication, current Marijuana tests cannot differentiate between present intoxication and past consumption.  Someone who smoked a joint last week, but is driving safely today can still be found guilty of intoxicated driving, while he or she is most certainly not impaired. One may argue that my latter statement is inconsequential, that a person found with Marijuana in his or her system has still broken a law and therefore should be punished.  While smoking Marijuana is illegal, being forced to submit to unprecedented drug testing without a warrant is a violation of one's Fourth Amendment rights.  If this bill were to become law, it would be the first time in history that an American citizen with no previous criminal record could be faced with a fine or imprisonment based solely on a random drug test. 
Serious consideration must be given to this issue.  Punishing citizens simply for having marijuana metabolites in their systems will have no impact on vehicular safety and is an encroachment on American civil liberties. As it stands the act would allow the United States to penalize its citizens for crimes they did not commit.    I urge you to discuss this topic with your colleagues and inform them of the information contained herein.  Roadway safety and impaired driving are serious concerns in the United States, I agree with the intentions of the Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement Act, but I respectfully call for the men and women of congress to realize the ramifications of this bill.
Thank you for considering my concerns and acknowledging the potential intrusion of civil liberties that this bill may initiate. I welcome your thoughts on this important piece of legislature and I look forward to further correspondence from you.  I wish you the best of luck in your future accomplishments.

Jeffrey B. Friedlander 

[1] LaTourette, Steven C., et al. Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement Act of 2004. US 108 Cong., 2d sess. HR 3922. 9 Mar. 2004. 06 July 2004 .

[2] InfoFacts - Marijuana. Mar. 2004. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 06 July 2004 .

[3] Marijuana: Facts for Teens. Mar. 2003. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 06 July 2004 .  (I dont know why thats bolded, I can't fix it and I intend no emphasis)

[4] Appendix B: Drug Category Profiles. U.S. Department of Labor. 06 July 2004.

[5] Drugs and Human Performance Fact Sheets - Cannabis / Marijuana. National Highway Traffic safety Administration. 06 July 2004

The Recipients:
Senator Mike DeWine
140 Russell Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
Congressman Dennis Kucinich
1730 Longworth
Washington, DC 20515 (That one was actually an accident)

Congressman Steven C. LaTourette
2453 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Congressman Sandy Levin
2300 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Rob Portman
238 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Jim Ramstad
103 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Congressman Mark Souder
1227 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Patrick J. Tiberi
113 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Honorable George V. Voinovich
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
I chose these lawmakers because they were either in charge of my state, district, or their name appeared on the bill itself (except Kucinich, woops).Coincidentally, and by no intention of my own, every one of these distinguished lawmakers are Republican (except Kucinich, whoops).   
The icing on the cake:
This bill is supported by the Walsh Group.  One of the largest drug-testing corporations in the country.  They are lobbying congress in an attempt to push it through and "make the highways safer" of course, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in a tax-funded drug-testing program at the same time; but that is surely a by-product of the service that they are providing the American people.

In conclusion:
I hope to post tomorow about less serious things, the party should be a great time, hope to see you there.  If you can't make it, I will try to bring the fun to you through the wonderful words of this live journal.  Good day.


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