Just What the Hell is "Under the Influence" Anyway?

Published online September 13th, 2012, with Salemnews.com

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With more and more folks using marijuana as medicine, nearly 60,000 in Oregon alone and now literally hundreds of thousands in California, the establishment employers are worrying about employees being high on the job. “Can't have these people using equipment and machinery” I can hear them saying. “We could be in danger from them.” So just what is under the influence anyway”

I can only draw from my personal experience, but it is considerable as I have been using marijuana for about 40 years. I think that marijuana in and of itself, if it degrades ones abilities at all, is statistically insignificant. Marijuana's problem if it has one, besides the DEA, is that it is an enhancer. It makes things taste better, feel better and act stronger. It is now well known that if folks using prescription pain killers, add marijuana to the mix it allows them to use less or stop the pharmaceuticals altogether. That is why pharmaceutical companies hate marijuana. It is not addicting.

Right up front, I'm going to say not everyone is a good fit for marijuana. Some get nervous, paranoid or uncomfortable. If it bothers you do NOT use it. That's my disclaimer.

Purely guessing I'd say those folks are few and far between. I know of only one person in my smoking career that wasn't a fit for marijuana. There are thousands or maybe millions of us that are experienced smokers and smoke every day, (Myself for medical necessity).

A 2003 study done in England, about people driving after using marijuana, found them to be more careful drivers. I've always thought so because when I was a street cop in Portland Oregon in the pot smoking '60's, I never arrested anyone for driving under the influence of it. There were probably a half a million or more smoking pot on the West coast then. Why didn't I arrest anyone for it? Because it is essentially undetectable if you can't smell it.

I offer this information also; in the past 40 years I have been examined by various medical professionals, doctors in general practice, a cardiologist, an osteopathic physician and a psychiatrist for PTSD. During routine medical exams I was always asked if I smoked. I always said “no” just to see if they could detect it. They never could. The cardiologist hooked me up to an EKG after I had smoked on the way to his office. He couldn't tell either.

“Well your eyes will give you away,” I can hear you say. Oh really? My eyes have been examined during physicals, and I have been examined for new glasses many times in the past years. No one ever said, “I can tell you have been smoking marijuana!”

My thoughts based on my experience is this: Marijuana use in and of itself is essentially undetectable by medical professionals, and of course police officers. They cannot tell if you smoked a joint an hour ago or a week ago if they can't smell it.

So just what is “under the influence” anyway?

All my medical prescriptions for high blood pressure pills and probably all of your meds at home in your medicine cabinet have warning stickers all over them, yellow and red, that say “don't operate machinery” or “don't drive” or “don't mix with alcohol as it may cause drowsiness.”

But you all do it every day anyway. In other words you take your meds and drive to work or drive to the store or go shopping. Driving “under the influence” “shopping under the influence.” Shame on you!

Under the influence is a misnomer. What they actually mean is how does the medication degrade your ability to work, drive or perform required functions. In the case of cannabis, by itself, I still think it is statistically insignificant in judging performance.

To those concerned employers I say “don't worry.” Your marijuana users will continue to do the same good job they have always done as safely as they have always done it. And to answer the burning question I know you are asking, “did I smoke any marijuana before I came to the computer to write this?” I'll leave that to you to decide and if you think I did, I will also leave it to you to decide if it degraded or impaired my abilities.

Don DuPay