The debate surrounding marijuana in the US just got more complicated.
With 29 States and Washington DC now permitting cannabis use under some circumstances, questions are now being asked about the enforcement of drug-driving restrictions, and federal restrictions on the purchase of firearms by regular cannabis users.
In an article in The Conversation this week, University of California San Diego psychiatrist Igor Grant questioned whether current spot tests for drug-driving were adequate. Nine US states have zero-tolerance policies for drivers, making it illegal for drivers to have traces of THC - the active chemical in marijuana - in their blood.
The difficulty with the test is that traces of THC don’t necessarily mean someone is high:
“unlike alcohol, evidence of cannabis use can linger long after its effects have worn off...Among chronic users, it may not clear out of their systems for weeks. Therefore, unlike blood alcohol concentration, the presence and amount of different cannabis compounds in the blood or urine do not necessarily tell you whether the driver is impaired due to marijuana.”
Grant has called for further research to find effective testing methods.
Questions are also being asked about the federal prohibition on the purchase of firearms by regular cannabis users.
Alaska republican senator Lisa Murkowski wrote to Attorney General Loretta Lynch earlier this year after she discovered the regulation.
“In my judgment, the disqualification of an entire class of marijuana users acting consistent with state law from possessing any firearm merits a review of federal legal policy”.
Lobbyists are watching closely to see how incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions - known for his hardline approach to drugs - reacts to the issues.
In 2005 Peter Singer confidently forecast the demise of the "sanctity of life" by 2040. His objections to the idea were mainly philosophical, but he cited two piece of evidence. One was the amazing success of a South Korean scientist named Hwang Woo-suk in creating embryonic stem cell lines. The other was the continuing advance of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Within months, Hwang Woo-suk was exposed as one of the greatest scientific frauds of the last century. As for euthanasia, Singer could still be right (although fears do persist that it could become, in his words, a "holocaust)". One out of two is not an impressive result and does little to inspire confidence in his prediction.
But there is another problem with Singer's critique of the sanctity of life argument, as we report this week. A British bioethicist, David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, points out that it was not Christians who "invented" the sanctity of life, but Singer and his cronies. In a very thought-provoking article in The New Bioethics, he says that "sanctity of life" is just a straw man set up to label discredit arguments against Singer's "quality of life" approach. It is a controversial thesis which deserves to be debated.
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