Marijuana Impaired Driver Debate Continues In Colorado

Driving High Cheech Chong

The debate continues in Colorado on how to measure whether medical marijuana patients are impaired behind the wheel.  A bill up for a Senate hearing Monday would say that drivers would be considered impaired if they test positive for 5 nano-grams or more of THC, but the debate is whether or not that amount is over or under sufficient. 

Colorado’s current law states that  drivers can’t be impaired by drugs but does not set a THC limit. Pot activists say impairment and THC levels aren’t directly related.  Marijuana activists called the 5-nanogram limit “unfair” because they say patients who use marijuana regularly see a gradual build-up of THC levels, even when sober.

The 5 nano-gram limit “is not supported by the science,” argued Michael Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, which opposes the bill.  Marijuana activists favor instead an education effort reminding patients they cannot legally drive high.

Last year, a similar DUI standard cleared the House but was defeated in the Senate amid concerns from both parties about the lack of agreement on an acceptable blood-level standard. A nonpartisan study committee that looked at the question during the summer and fall could not agree on what the standard should be.

Different states that have already set a legal limit for marijuana have taken different approaches.

Nevada and Ohio have a limit of 2 nano-grams of THC per milliliter for driving. Pennsylvania has a 5 nano-gram limit, but unlike Colorado’s proposal, it’s a state Health Department guideline, which can be introduced in driving violation cases. Twelve states, including Illinois, Arizona, and Rhode Island, have a zero-tolerance policy for driving with any presence of an illegal substance.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, peak THC concentrations are present during the act of smoking and they generally fall to less than 5 nano-grams within three hours. What are your thoughts?





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