Five years ago, give or take, when Vermont was first getting a DRE ("Drug Recognition Evaluator" formerly "Drug Recognition Expert") program I did a presentation for my colleagues entitled "The Trouble with DUID." With the recent talk of banning Four Loko and dealing with the "Spice" issue, which I will save to discuss in detail later, it's gotten me thinking again about that presentation and the issue of legislation.
What has the focus been on the Four Loko ban? Look at any of the articles or the bills being introduced and you will see the focus is on the caffeine and the brightly colored packaging. Were those college kids hospitalized for caffeine intoxication? No, it was alcohol poisoning. My prediction is that the bills will ban caffeine containing alcoholic beverages. My second prediction is that Four Loko will simply drop the caffeine, add a little more guarana and be back on the shelves in no time. Leaving the problem of a 12% alcohol 24 ounce pop top beverage that will still be intriguing due to it's low price and high alcohol content.
So what does that have to do with DUID? Driving Under the Influence of Drugs for those not familiar with the acronym. Well, several years ago, I was presented with pending legislation to change the DUID statute in Vermont. We were asked to review and comment on the wording. The bill wasn't original. It was adapted from another state and followed a similar pattern and a poor one at that. It simply listed drugs that were no-nos. This created a problem for some. #1 Drugs that were Schedule I were less of an issue, since they are already illegal, but the legislature wanted numbers like the per se limits in the DUI laws. #2 Those drugs that had therapeutic uses were concerning. The legislature did not want to make it illegal for someone to drive "legally impaired."
Anyways, I digress. Alcohol is a nice clean, linear, neat drug. The effects are universal and occur at vice nice linear progressions until at the highest level death occurs. Per se limits can be put into effect because ethanol's affect on people is very consistent. Drugs don't follow this pattern. They don't all affect people linearly nor have the same effects on every person. This makes per se limits very difficult to impose. Factoring in as well that people don't want to ban therapeutic levels of drugs, it's a complicated issue.
On the next post we'll continue from there and continue to outline the Trouble with DUID.