Colorado Lawmakers Try Again for Marijuana Blood Level Driving Limit
Colorado lawmakers are pushing for a law that would set a marijuana blood standard for drivers, news reports say. If the measure passes, drivers in the state would be considered impaired if they test positive for five nanograms or more of THC — the ingredient in pot that makes a person high — per millileter of blood, Amanda Brandeis wrote recently for NewsChannel5.
According to an article by Sunana Batra for the Colorado News Agency and appearing on the website of State Senator Steve King (Rep.), his proposal to crack down on people driving under the influence of marijuana was approved back in August by the Transportation Legislation Review Committee, and the next step is to introduce the bill in the General Assembly in January.
‘The transportation committee’s biggest concern is the safe movement of our citizens from place to place,’ King told committee members. ‘Any person driving under the influence of a drug impairs that ability. This is legislation that will save lives.’
Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, questioned why King was limiting his proposal to just THC and not all drugs, including prescription drugs.
‘Fatalities from THC are going up in Colorado while fatalities from alcohol are going down,’ King replied. ‘We have to start some place.’
King said the bill is a separate issue from Amendment 64 (the recent ballot issue that voters approved to allow the use of recreational marijuana); medical marijuana is already legal in Colorado. King and his cohorts would be introducing the bill even if Amendment 64 had failed, he said, as Brandeis writes.
Brandeis quotes King:
‘We’re not trying to take people’s constitutional right, under the state of Colorado, to smoke marijuana away from them. What we’re saying is do [whatever] you want to do if you’re of legal age to do that, but don’t do it and drive, don’t get high and drive.’
King says this bill is very similar to those proposed in the past. The bill must go through the House and Senate to eventually be signed by the Governor.
Gene Johnson and Kristen Wyatt write in an Associated Press article appearing in the Morning Sentinel that John Jackson, police chief of Greenwood Village, a Denver suburb, said the state is “going to have more impaired drivers,” now that Amendment 64 was approved.
AP says that statistics gathered for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2009, one third of fatally injured drivers with known test results were positive for drugs other than alcohol. Marijuana can cause dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve their vehicles when they are high, AP reports. And unlike portable breath tests for alcohol, there is no easily available way to know if a driver is impaired from recent pot use, they write.
Colorado’s ballot measure intentionally did not set a driving standard, because those who wrote it wanted to avoid controversy, AP writes. Drugged driving cases in Colorado had increased even before the Amendment 64 vote, AP notes.
In a related news item, Yolanda Knell reports for BBC News Middle East that a company called Tikun Olam in a secret location in northern Israel has developed a new strain of marijuana that contains the plant’s healing properties but without the THC, the part that makes people high.
Instead the new plant has a high concentration of another of the main constituents called cannabidiol (CBD), a powerful anti-inflammatory.
‘Cannabidiol does not bind to the brain, to the brain cells, therefore after taking it you don’t have any side effects that you don’t want,’ says Ruth Gallily, an immunology professor at Hebrew University who has researched CBD for 15 years.
‘(These include) not being high, not being confused. You can drive, you can work, you can do everyday things. It’s very non-toxic.’
Zach Klein, Tikun Olam’s research and development manager, told Knell that the new strains are excellent for people who work, for older people (because they are sensitive to THC), and for children. Medical marijuana is legal in Israel.
Image by Rob.