Insurance: the puffer’s burden

Modern police science can detect the THC molecule in the teensiest particle of suspect vegetation, the merest wisp of pale brown pot smog clinging to a single thread. Modern government laboratories can sniff out THC like no dog before them, but they cannot do it quick and cheap. This has always been a problem for the cannabis analysis squads.
As million dollar gas chromatography machines betray the minutest amounts of cannabinoids, a ritual that generally only succeeds in qualifying high school kids as pot puffers for parole duty, we should be aware that no easy, cheap and accurate test exists to detect the degree of cannabis intoxication in the human.

There is little comfort in the knowledge that modern science is able to discover and isolate the equivalent of a single pellet of flea poop in a ten pound sack of fine ground black pepper. Who wants to find these minute traces of cannabis in bloodstreams? Who cares if the molecules can be shown present in smaller and smaller flea-poop quantities? Who would have any practical interest in such infinitesimally minute traces of pot inside someone else’s body for heaven’s sake?

The insurance companies, that’s who.

No pot pay-off

Beneath the banner of safety, the powerful international institutions of insurance have been developing sensitive testing procedures for illicit substances in their millions of automobile-driving clients.

These insurance companies pay out billions of dollars in claims every year. It adds up. It is very expensive to pay the costs of keeping critically injured people alive for years on end.

This is not a casual business relationship, nor a benevolent social service to help out crash victims. Each claim is carefully assessed to make sure that the claimant is eligible for compensation. The insurance company would rather not write that cheque if they could possibly avoid it.

In early 80s, the major North American insurance companies provided funding to citizen groups fighting the tide of decrim for pot… They did not want to pay out insurance premiums to cover traffic accidents that they could reasonably argue away as caused by criminal activity (aka smoking marijuana).

Commercial truck drivers were the first vehicle operators to be socially induced to take mandatory urine tests if they wanted to keep their jobs. The insurance companies demanded urine tests before offering coverage… no insurance, no trucking industry. Trucking company bosses obliged with these demands to use the piss of their paid employees to qualify for insurance coverage. A handy tactic that’s deceptively simple.

No laws need be changed or civil liberty compromised. Clients’ wizz jars would not be allowed to register the presence of cannabis ? in any amount ? as a criteria for coverage, and clients would be able to prove it on demand when asked to provide a sample for independent analysis. What loyal policy holder would object?

Other industries soon followed suit if they wanted to keep their insurance package intact. Breweries, airlines, banks, and public lending institutions made heroic efforts to have drug screening mandatory for all employees. Private labs across the USA sprang up to mop up the new business of piss prophecy. Entrepreneurs in white lab coats, eager to conduct THC tests on millions of insured subjects, charged handsomely for their advanced diaper-snooping services.

What this would accomplish would be nothing less than establishing a chemical caste system in the Americas ? dividing those who used drugs from those who did not. Two very different categories of status in an otherwise supposedly equal society.

Insurance companies had no interest in securing criminal convictions for drug offences ? that task would remain a police matter. All the insurance magnates required were subtle tools of analysis to be used as legal weapons to deny coverage to anyone associated with drugs, and in particular cannabis ? the number one forbidden drug of choice worldwide.

The joke was that millions of drivers could smoke pot during their off hours and for the most part hide their pastime from the police without any difficulty. However, the surprise ending was no joke. Who knows how many insured and paid-up drivers had traffic accidents, filed claims with their insurance companies, and discovered that they would never be able to collect on their insurance policy they had paid so faithfully for so long?

If their insurance agent could prove that the claimant’s driving performance at the time of the accident was chemically compromised with cannabis in any quantity whatsoever ? even microscopic traces of flea poop proportions ? there would be no payout.

Further, without the financial armour of insurance to fight off counterclaims, the horrified policy holder discovers that they are suddenly, irrevocably, personally responsible for all damages that may arise from that accident.

Coverage may be resumed afterwards on a much higher pro-rated basis, or denied altogether. Insurance is private enterprise, not a government service no matter how much it looks like one on TV. The insurance cult does not entertain any appeals to their final decision. That’s the crash biz ? heartless.

A brief history of pot analysis

The only way of determining the potency of cannabis under the first drug laws of the 20th century was to force feed samples of cannabis to laboratory dogs and observe them as they became progressively woozy to the point where motor ataxia (or tangled up limbs) was noted. As the dog test was the industry standard for many years, researchers were able to demonstrate the remarkable feature of cannabis: that it would not ever kill a dog or man, even in great concentrations, unlike almost every other plant drug that medical commerce requires to keep us healthy.

By the 1940’s, as an aid to developing low potency, industrial hemp for an ambitious war production fibre program, dog duty was retired as slow and unreliable. A much better method
of determining potency was adopted in scientific circles ? crude cannabis, extracted in petroleum, was added to rows of standard aquariums, each containing a species of fresh water minnows, ominously named “killfish”, which exhibited graduated rates of metabolism as stronger concentrations of cannabis extracts were added to their tank water. Once they had served their single purpose in the lab, the poor fish were simply flushed down the toilet.

These animal tests showed only the coarsest aspects of cannabis intoxication. Government cannabis research during the war years progressed to isolating the active principle within “essential red oil of cannabis.” It was hoped that this was the long sought after chemical soul of American-grown cannabis that could be synthesized in the laboratory, if required.

Further research into the mysteries of red oil of cannabis indicated that a vast spectra of cannabinoid compounds were present. By the end of the 40’s, cannabis analysis was a lot more complicated than feeding drugs to animals as the newly formed United Nations undertook the study and came up to bat to take the first swing at world cannabis in the 50’s and 60’s. This first crusade to exterminate cannabis got bogged down at political hot spots. Traditional areas of cannabis production in the middle east were funding their political aspirations with money from poppy culture.

Advances in cannabis analysis was pre-empted as a priority, in favour of concentrating on detection of opiates and the plethora of synthetic drugs spilling all over the planet in far greater amounts than required by legitimate medicine. It was not until 1969 that the THC molecule was shown to be the most psychoactive sector of the cannabinoid soup inherent in the crude dried flowering portions of a fully mature, unfertilized female cannabis plant.

Swiss panel urges legal pot

A Swiss government panel has recommended that Switzerland legalize the sale and use of marijuana. The panel report, released April 23, acknowledged that Swiss cannabis law was suffering from a “growing loss of credibility” in Switzerland, and that prohibition might even encourage use. They recommended that marijuana dealers be licensed by the state, and have to pass a training course. Buyers would need to show they lived in Switzerland, to reduce the number of tourists coming to buy Swiss buds.

The recommendations are part of an ongoing study to revise Swiss drug laws, and would likely not become law without a public referendum. A 1997 referendum legalized state distribution of heroin to addicts, which government studies have since shown resulted a drastic decrease in unemployment and crime among users. A 1998 referendum proposal to legalize the personal production and purchase of all drugs was strongly defeated.