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THC Levels and Impairment Standards Will Need to be Addressed as More States Legalize Marijuana

Four states will take up the issue of legalizing marijuana in the voting booths on November 6. While decisions on whether to legally allow the use of marijuana for medical or recreational uses is voted on in Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah, these states and others who already have legislation on the books, are being tasked with how to best identify levels of impairment in individuals who are suspected of operating vehicles with THC in their systems. Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Forensic Fluids Laboratories (FFL) is the only exclusive oral fluid drug testing facility in the United States, and has been on the forefront of helping courts and police agencies identify THC levels in those suspected of using marijuana, or other drugs.

Bridget Lorenz Lemberg, FFL founder and toxicologist with more than 30-years experience in the drug testing industry, notes that developing standard levels for impairment from the use of marijuana will take time as data is collected.

“Police do not pull people over who have done nothing wrong. There are reasons and those could be anything from driving erratically or being in an accident,” said Lorenz Lemberg. “As oral fluid or blood collection levels are associated with various violations, legislation can then be developed to create a standard for THC impairment.”

According to a study released in October 2018 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, states that have legalized the sale of recreational marijuana, have experienced a 5.2% higher police-reported crash rate overall than would have been expected had they not legalized recreational marijuana.

“We will begin to experience some of the same issues we faced 30 years ago when creating laws regarding operating on under the influence of alcohol. It does not matter if you are working, driving, or talking. There are identifiable signs of unacceptable behavior,” said Lorenz Lemberg. “With THC, we also need to recognize the more an individual uses cannabis, the more likely they are to build up certain tolerances, which could include various motor skills.”

Forensic Fluids Laboratories’ toxicology laboratory specializes in oral fluid drug testing using a state-of-the-art methodology called Liquid Chromatography Tandem Mass Spectrometry, which detects over 130 different drugs including opiates, marijuana (THC), cocaine, methamphetamine, synthetic marijuana (K2), Kratom, synthetic fentanyls and others. The lab provides drug abuse testing and therapeutic drug monitoring for hundreds of clients around the Midwest, including many child welfare and police agencies. Most recently, FFL was selected to provide confirmation oral fluid testing of suspected drugged drivers during a pilot roadside drug testing program administered by the Michigan State Police (MSP).

“This methodology is unsurpassed in sensitivity, precision, dynamic range and speed of analysis,” said Lorenz Lemberg. “Our toxicologists certify these results, which are admissible in court.”

About Forensic Fluids Laboratories:

Forensic Fluids Laboratories was founded in 2005 by Lemberg, a pioneer in the development of oral fluid testing techniques in the United States. Forensic Fluids Laboratories’ ability to provide timely and accurate results has enabled the company to grow from one to 86 employees and to recently move into a new, 30,000-square-foot facility inside the former Gibson Guitar building in downtown Kalamazoo. For more information, visit forensicfluids.com.

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