HB1261 “Pot DUI” Bill Dies on the Colorado House Floor
The “Stoner Bill”, the “Pot DUI Bill”, the “Stoned Driving Bill” — no matter what you call it, HB1261 died on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives on Monday night.
The controversial bill (which I have covered earlier in this blog here and here) would have a set a blood THC level similar to the blood alcohol level used to determine drunk driving. As you may expect, there were many vibrant opinions voiced while it was under consideration, both for and against the bill.
Andrea Rael, a blogger for The Huffington Post, fills us in on what seemed the telling blow against the bill:
As it originally stood, House Bill 1261, perhaps more widely known as the “Pot DUI Bill,” would have set the most tolerant THC limit in the country but medical marijuana advocates argued that it was still too strict. The bill would have set a THC threshold (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood but was amended back into deliberation in part because of a blood test submitted by William Breathes, the controversial medical marijuana critic for Westword.
In a debate in which much opinion has been bandied about by both sides, the medical findings would appear to have been the final push needed to prevent this bill from seeing the light of day. Rael continues,
In the blood test, Breathes reported that after a night of sleep and not smoking for 15 hours his THC levels nearly tripled the proposed standard. Occupational medicinal specialist Dr. Alan E. Shackleford reportedly evaluated Breathes and declared him ‘in no way incapacitated.’
Additionally, one big concern that probably contributed to the decision is the argument that setting levels for THC and not other drugs sets a double standard. Gene Davis, a staff writer for The Denver Daily News, also notes concern over the creation of a legal double standard:
Critics of the bill […] pointed out that there is no nanogram limit for oxycontin or other drugs that may impair drivers and that medical marijuana patients are ‘once again treated like second-class citizens for their choice of medicine.’
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was not at all pleased with the vote. His commentary was harsh. Suthers said that with roughly 125,000 people registered to use medical marijuana in Colorado, some sort of measures needs to be taken.
‘The fact that some senators were succumbing to pressure from the marijuana industry while others may have been concerned the per-se limit was too high is no excuse for complete inaction on such a critical public safety issue,’ he said in a statement. ‘This is yet another public policy failure by the General Assembly to enact appropriate marijuana policies in Colorado.’
Handling a motor vehicle while ingesting anything that alters your perceptions — alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription drugs — can impair attention and reaction times in potentially disastrous ways. Just because no changes are being made right now does not mean that the issue will not be raised again.