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Legislature Delays Decision on ‘Driving While Stoned’ Measure

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CannabisA legislative committee has delayed a measure in Colorado that would set a legal limit on the amount of THC in the blood when driving, just like alcohol.

THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, the part that actually intoxicates you. The state legislature’s bill, HR 1261, would set a limit to blood-THC levels of 5 nanograms / milliliter.  At that point, a driver would be considered too stoned to drive. It is that 5 ng / ml limit that caused the shelving of the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to give that limit further study.

John Ingold, a writer for The Denver Post, brings us more:

With several votes still to go before reaching the governor’s desk, the bill could be amended back to its original form.

Rep. Steve King, a Grand Junction Republican who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill had been studied enough. He said stoned drivers are an immediate public-safety threat and criticized the medical-marijuana industry for not speaking out more forcefully against driving high.

‘I think it’s a study at the risk of lives,’ King said after the vote.

Coming from the other side is Williams Breathes, the pseudonym of a medical marijuana patient who reviews medicinal weed for Denver Westword. Breathes abstained from cannabis for 15 hours and had a full night of sleep, then he paid a visit to a Denver doctor for a blood test. Despite abstaining, his blood THC levels were almost triple the proposed limit:

The lab ran a serum/plasma test which showed my THC count to be at 27. According to Dr. Alan Shackelford, who ordered the blood work and evaluated my results, the number of active THC nanograms per milliliter count is about half of that total, or 13.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

In short: If this bill passes and I was pulled over by police, I would be over the limit by 8.5 nanograms. By that logic, I would be more likely to have mowed down a family in my car on my way to the doctor’s office that day than actually arriving there safely. But I didn’t — because I wasn’t impaired.

Don’t take my word for it. According to Shackelford, who evaluated me before writing the order to have my blood drawn last Wednesday, I was ‘in no way incapacitated.’ According to him, my test results show that it would not be uncommon to see such a high level in other people who use cannabis regularly — like medical marijuana patients. ‘Your level was about 13.5 for whole blood… which would have made you incapacitated on a lab value,’ he said. ‘They need to vote this sucker down based on that alone.’

The bill is slated to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee this week. Regardless of where the legal limit is ultimately set, one thing remains certain: It’s extremely dangerous to drive while impaired, be it from alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, or any other intoxicant. When you’re behind the wheel, it is essential to be completely under control.

Image by aeroSoul/Rainer Vandalismus, used under its Creative Commons license.


2 Responses to “Legislature Delays Decision on ‘Driving While Stoned’ Measure”


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