Telegraph LTE: Panel right to reject drugged-driving bill

(This LTE was published March 15 in the Nashua Telegraph.)

In this era of negative politics, it’s good form to applaud legislators when they do something right.

For this week’s example, I think we should all be grateful for the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s unanimous rejection of HB 575, a zero-tolerance, drugged-driving bill that was requested by the New Hampshire Department of Safety and supported by the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association.

This bill, which has not yet been acted on by the full House, would dramatically expand driving-under-the-influence laws to include drivers with any drug metabolites in their blood or urine, regardless of whether they are actually impaired while driving.

Since individuals can test positive for marijuana weeks after smoking, thousands of perfectly sober New Hampshire drivers might technically be guilty of DUI at any given time under the policy.

But it doesn’t stop there. If you think this proposed policy is only an outrage for illicit drug users, consider this: the bill includes an “implied consent” clause that states that all drivers “shall be deemed to have given consent” to a blood or urine test, simply because they are operating a car, boat or snowmobile.

Intrusive? The committee thought so, and it rejected the Department of Safety’s request in a 13-0 vote. Even the former law enforcement officers who serve on the committee did not fall for this Orwellian expansion of police powers. A similar bill advanced somewhat further in Kentucky this year, so we should be thankful that our legislators, if not our bureaucrats, respect our fundamental right to be secure from unreasonable searches. It is, after all, quite clearly enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Matt Simon
Executive Director
NH Coalition for Common
Sense Marijuana Policy

Back to top