Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

July 6, 2004 - The News-Sentinel, The (Fort Wayne, IN)

U.S. Drivers Beware: Souder Is Legislating

By Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

IMAGINE IF IT was against the law to drive home after consuming one glass of wine at dinner. Now imagine it was against the law to do so after having a glass of wine two weeks ago.

Sound absurd? No more so than proposed legislation by U.S. Rep. Mark Souder mandating that each state enact laws sanctioning anyone who operates a motor vehicle "while any detectable amount of a controlled substance is present in the person's body, as measured in the person's blood, urine, saliva, or other bodily substance."

The expressed purpose of this legislation, H.R. 3922: the "Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement Act of 2004," is to remove drug-impaired drivers from our roadways, but in reality, this proposal would do little to improve safety. Rather it would falsely categorize sober drivers as "intoxicated" simply if they had consumed an illicit substance, particularly marijuana, days or weeks earlier.

Souder's proposal, recently added to the House transportation reauthorization bill, presumes individuals guilty of driving while intoxicated if even trace levels of a controlled substance or even drug metabolites (inactive compounds indicative of past drug use) are found in bodily fluids, even if the individual is neither under the influence nor impaired to drive.

Marijuana metabolites are often detectable in urine for days or weeks after the drug is consumed. Imagine if we prosecuted recreational drinkers similarly. This unfunded federal mandate from Congress is unnecessary.

All states already have DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) statutes on the books. Most focus on the totality of circumstances -- most importantly, whether the motorist is physically or mentally impaired - -- and rightly punishes those who drive under the influence of illicit drugs.

There is no need for additional legislation, especially from the federal government.

While drug-impaired driving is obviously a serious issue, Souder's proposal neither addresses the problem nor offers a legitimate solution. "Zero tolerance" laws are neither a safe nor sensible way to identify impaired drivers; they are an attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws in order to identify and prosecute recreational drug users per se.

Furthermore, identifying and sanctioning impaired drivers should be solely a state issue, and not a Congressional concern. At a minimum, state laws targeting drug drivers should identify "parent drugs" (i.e., cocaine or THC) the psychoactive component in marijuana), not simply inert drug metabolites.

These laws must have scientifically sound cut-off levels that correlate drug concentration to impairment of performance, similar to the 0.08 BAC standard for drunk driving.

There must also be assurances that the laws require drug testing be performed and confirmed by accredited state labs using uniform procedures and standards. Such measures, if enacted by states, would be reasonable alternatives to "zero tolerance" drugged-driving legislation. Meanwhile, Congress should butt out of the issue altogether.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact