Graham Lambert, 32, and Charles Cullison, 25, were two medical students attending Touro University Nevada through a military scholarship program when they enrolled in a medical jurisprudence class under the direction of Dr. Weldon Havins. Lambert and Cullison began their research project for the class having little idea where their idea, research, and findings would lead.
“What the students did is just remarkable,” Havins said. Although, “I admit I was a bit skeptical. We were talking about a criminal law that had been on the books for years in Nevada.”
So what did these two graduate students accomplish that was so noteworthy?
Developing a Better Test
Initially, Havins, who holds both medical and law degrees, was approached by Lambert and Cullison with the idea that urine testing couldn’t detect the components in marijuana that impaired drivers. The research idea was significant because at the time the students wanted to begin their research, urine testing was the only test authorized under Nevada and Las Vegas DUI laws.
The students moved forward with their research in such a persuasive manner that Nevada legislators eventually passed a new DUI measure to govern testing for marijuana impairment, and Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the measure into law.
“Who would have thought a project for a class and a poster competition could go so far?” said Lambert.
Under the old law, urine tests could only detect THC-COOH, a nonpsychoactive waste product of marijuana that has no correlation with psychomotor impairment and can actually remain in an individual’s system for weeks after marijuana usage. Under the new law, a blood test is stipulated to check for delta-9-THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient, and 11-OH-THC, a marijuana metabolite. Both of these components are associated with cognitive impairment.
Changing Nevada Laws for The Better
Graham Lambert was not only busy in medical school at the time; he was also married with a five-year-old daughter and planning for a career in the Navy. Charles Cullison also had his hands full; he, too, was married, expecting a child, and planning for his career in the Air Force. As of this report, neither men were sure of what their medical specialty will be.
When the two future doctors were asked why they had chosen to research something related to marijuana, Lambert and Cullison both admitted they hadn’t known what they wanted to research at all. It wasn’t until they were flipping through a local newspaper and saw an article about the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana that they began to focus on the chosen topic.
As they read, they learned that individuals were concerned with the legalization of recreational marijuana because of the possible DUI’s. At that point, the two medical students decided to research the topic further, and they eventually narrowed in on their successful project idea.
“We really wanted to focus on something that was important to the state at the time,” Lambert said. Cullison shared, “I think anyone who goes into medicine needs to care about this kind of stuff, about medical law.”
The students’ project and the subsequent change in law are receiving attention and coverage nationwide.