Controversy Continues Over CO Stoned-Driving Law Awaiting Governor’s Signature
With Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper expected to sign the state’s pending marijuana DUI law next week, opposition to the bill continues. A minister from Nunn is suing the state, saying the pot blood-limit the law defines as impaired is too low for frequent users, according to news reports. And the writer of an opinion piece in Boulder Weekly also has problems with the bill.
The Nunn minister, Rev. Brandon Baker, of Green Faith Ministry Native American Church, which advocates pot use for healing and religious practices, says he uses marijuana for religious reasons, according to an article on TheDenverChannel.com, partly written by Associated Press. Baker’s lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, calls the absence of a religious exemption in the law “unconstitutional.”
Baker told the Associated Press: “I don’t feel they’re about getting impaired drivers off the road.” He said he feels the law is “more of a law to infringe on a selected group of people.” He is concerned that the law will not be fairly applied, because some users have higher blood levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in pot, he said.
As Kristen Wyatt writes in an Associated Press article appearing on DenverPost.com, the state struggled for three years to come up with a marijuana DUI bill, precisely because of those concerns. Some people felt that making stoned driving standards analogous to blood-alcohol limits might not be fair, she writes.
House Bill 1325, expected to be signed by the governor next week, says that drivers with 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood would be considered too impaired to drive, as TheDenverChannel.com notes. However, the bill allows drivers to argue that they were sober at that limit.
The level of a driver’s marijuana intoxication would be determined by a blood test. Baker says the bill’s low limit will help to convict pot users are are not stoned while driving, because some users always have elevated THC levels.
And in Boulder Weekly, in a piece titled “How will I know if I’m one toke over the line?,” Leland Rucker writes that although there needs to be a way to determine impaired driving under the influence of marijuana, House Bill 1325 is flawed:
In a column a couple of weeks ago I discussed studies that many lawmakers seemed to have overlooked while preparing this regulation, and a Boulder Weekly reader asked a couple of pertinent questions in response. 1) Can someone tell me exactly how much cannabis would it take to register 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood? Even just a range would help, e.g.: one puff, five, 10, 15 puffs off of a plain glass pipe? 2) Is there any correlation between amount smoked vs. height/weight vs. time of initial use of user?
The simple answer is that there is no way to tell exactly how many puffs are going to put you one toke over the 5 ng/ml line. THC concentrations are vastly different for each particular strain, so height or weight won’t make much difference.
Rucker also notes that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that “it is not advisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.” Rucker concludes his article with the following:
Responsible cannabis use means you shouldn’t drive impaired. In Colorado, especially with this new law coming into effect soon, the only safe thing, if you’re smoking, is not to drive afterwards.
AP reports that Nevada and Ohio have a 2 nanogram THC limit for driving. Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 last November, making marijuana legal for recreational use in the state, however it is still illegal under state law to buy or sell pot in any quantity or to consumer it in public, TheDenverChannel.com writes. Adults over 21 are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, or six plants.
Image by Blind Nomad.