If you drive high, wave your licence goodbye

Drivers are increasingly getting their licence revoked for driving with trace levels of cannabis in their bloodstream

The article is written with Syrian refugees, among others, in mind (photo: iStock)
July 13th, 2012 11:52 pm| by admin
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Hundreds of drivers caught with traces of cannabis in their blood have filed complaints against the police after a law change earlier this year made it possible to revoke people's licences, even if they are not under the influence of the drug at the time they are stopped.

The changes, which came into effect in January, mean that drivers found to have the active chemical in cannabis, THC, in their bloodstream risk losing their licence for three years.

So far this year the police have 259 complaints over the change. Previously no complaints had ever been filed by drivers who had been charged with driving under the influence of cannabis.

According to Arne Dam Ravn, a Copenhagen police solicitor, the complaints stem from the fact that THC remains detectable in the bloodstream for up to a month after the effects have worn off. So while drivers may no longer feel under the influence, the presence of THC in their blood means they are still driving illegally.

“It has grave consequences because people are not aware that they are doing anything illegal,” Ravn told Berlingske newspaper. “I have spoken to an employer that had to fire one of his drivers because he had lost his driving licence. People can risk losing their home if they are dependent on their cars for their work.”

Henrik Rindom, an addiction expert, said he felt the law change unfairly targeted cannabis users.

“Why should people be punished so severely?” Rindom told Berlingske. “You’re just telling young people to sit down and get stoned for three years because there’s nothing else they can do after they’ve lost their licence.”

There is still no accurate test to measure the effects of a given level of THC in the bloodstream, as there is with alcohol, meaning that the zero-tolerance policy was arbitrary, according to Rindom.

“People are allowed to drive with a blood alcohol percent of 0.12 before they automatically lose their licence. Others drive around under the influence of sedatives, which can make people drowsy like cannabis, but because they are prescribed by doctors it is accepted. It’s simply a campaign against people who are smoking an illegal drug.”

Ole Hækkerup, legal spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, stood by the law, however.

“It's our job to ensure that traffic is safe and we would rather have a law that's too restrictive than run any sort of risk,” he told Berlingske. “We may start a campaign encouraging people to stop smoking cannabis altogether if they plan on driving.”

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