Marijuana DUI Standard Finds Its Way Back On Colorado Legislative Agenda
The Marijuana DUI Standard
Mesa County Republican Senator Steve King is pushing for Marijuana blood-level limits for drivers, similar to that of DUI for alcohol. This is his fourth attempt at pushing this law through, and he has been so insistant because he feels that without it, lives will be at stake. In the past, lawmakers have turned down the proposed measure three times which included a special session this year when it failed in the state Senate on a 17-17 vote. However, on Oct. 5th The Transportation Legislation Review committee voted 10-6 to introduce the bill this upcoming January.
The passing of this bill will make Colorado the third state in the U.S to adopt a driver’s blood standard for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana. Colorado is also among 16 total states in the U.S where Medical Marijuana use is legal.
The passing of this proposal means that drivers would be limited to 5 nano-grams of THC per milliliter of blood in their system when operating a vehicle. Sen. King and other proponents claim that people are dying needlessly on our states roads as a result of their consumption of Marijuana. They liken it to the lawless days before drunk driving was cracked down on around 20 years ago.
Nevada and Ohio also allow for medical marijuana use, and have a limit of 2 nano-grams for their drivers. Pennsylvania also has a limit of 5 nano-grams, which is what Colorado is proposing, but theirs is set by a state health-department guideline, which can then be brought in on a diving violation case.
On the other side of the fence, you have a lot of opposition as you might assume towards such a touchy topic in Colorado. Critics say that crash data related to pot consumption is incomplete, and should not be drawn upon to create laws. To push something through, with such tenacity, as King has done, backed by absolutely nothing but assumptions is asinine at best.
Another reason for such a loud outcry is that medical marijuana users can often have a high THC blood level even when not under the influence, as marijuana stays in a persons system for quite some time after using the drug. What this does is risk wrongly convicting people of driving while impaired, which should be considered a major injustice.
What opponents would rather see is a realistic THC Blood level which could indicate driving while truly impaired. They feel that raising the level to 10 nano-grams would suffice and would help avoid wrongly accusing a person who uses often, but may not drive while under its influence.
What opponents would actually prefer, to avoid any wrong convictions, would be what is already in use today. An officers observation is a better indicator of whether or not a person is driving while impaired. Leave it to their discretion as to whether a person is fit or not to drive. Then if a person is found guilty, they would be taken in and tested then as the THC would still be in their system for some time.
It should be noted that nobody ought to drive while under the influence of marijuana, and it should be hoped that those opposed to this new law aren’t simply trying be able to make it that they can drive after smoking without fear. But this whole argument does raise a few interesting concerns.
One is obviously that a person THC blood level should not be an indicator of a person sobriety, unless the level is so high that there is without a doubt that person is inebriated, and 5 nano-grams is far too low.
A second is that with all the debate on medical marijuana and testing the amount in your system for DUI purposes, why is there not similar tests for pharmaceutical drugs? You would assume considering that many drugs are similar to morphine, or even synthetic heroine, that they would have been regulated first similar to alcohol. Especially since they have been in use for medicinal purposes well before marijuana was allowed.
A third is why Sen. King was pushing so hard for it in the first place, claiming countless lives are lost every year due to marijuana is insane. There are no numbers to back that up, and if you were truly worried about Coloradans safety on our roadways, there are countless others real areas that need attention. All this would leave a person wondering what the incentive is, which stirs up the conspiracy theorists pot.
One thing to note is that even if come January the law does go into affect, it is going to be difficult to make stick a persons sobriety based on testing the THC in their system. Especially since some people can have it in their system for up to a month after using, while other more active individuals can lose all trace of it within 24 hours. Of course this is all dependent on total usage, but the point is still proven. A THC blood test is and would always be inconclusive if a person has smoked before. This sort of explains why it had been turned down three times prior. But if we can learn anything from this, it’s that persistance can often even conquer logic and reason. That’s a lesson worth remembering.
Phil Clark is an experienced and knowledgeable Medical Marijuana Attorney. If you or a loved one have been charged with a misdemeanor marijuana possession, it is highly recommended that you find an experienced Marijuana Attorney to represent you. This is especially true if you have your medical card, as there are laws to protect you and a Medical Marijuana Lawyer will have the knowledge required to best represent you.