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Colorado Lawmakers Drafting Drug DUI Bill

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Distorted image of a car ahead from a stoned driver's point of view

Lawmakers want better data about driving under the influence of marijuana; image courtesy National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Colorado House Representatives Jon Keyser (R-Morrison) and Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont) are drafting a bill this summer that will create a separate charge for driving under the influence of drugs, reports Megan Schrader for The Gazette. Keyser and Singer plan to introduce the legislation during the House’s 2016 session, which begins in January, Schrader writes.

At present, convictions for driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, and driving drunk are lumped together, Schrader writes. That makes it impossible to determine how many motorists are driving while impaired from marijuana or other drugs in Colorado, she adds.

Schrader quotes Singer:

‘We want to be able to pinpoint what public safety issues are out there related to impaired driving and whether that’s alcohol, prescription pills or marijuana, or some combination of all those things,’ Singer said. ‘It’s important for the public to know what the real public safety risk is and that way we can fine tune our approaches at the state level.’

Although the Colorado State Patrol began collecting data in January 2014 regarding the type of impairment troopers wrote citations for, Keyser and Singer “want a fuller picture,” Schrader writes. According to that data, troopers wrote 355 citations during the first half of 2014 for marijuana-impaired driving, as compared with 316 during the first half of 2015, Schrader writes. “But those statistics are just a slice of what law enforcement sees on the road,” she adds.

Schrader writes that Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, expressed concern about a law that would require collecting data on driving under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol, saying it could create problems — especially if a driver is impaired by both drugs and alcohol. Such a law could create an unintended “built-in” defense in court if the trooper had to make a quick decision as to what was causing the impairment, Raynes said. He said he would “love” to have the data about how many drivers were impaired by drugs, if there is some other way to approach collecting it, Schrader writes.

Colorado Amendment 64, which allows the recreational use of marijuana in the state, went into effect on December 10, 2012, as Sensible Colorado writes. The law does not allow people to use marijuana in public. Under Colorado law, a driver can legally have no more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, according to Colorado Pot Guide. Schrader quotes Trooper Josh Lewis as saying that once Amendment 64 went into effect, it was clear that people would want to know whether marijuana contributes to car accidents.

This blog wrote recently about a new app that makes it easy for a driver to know if he or she is too high to drive. The app, called Canary, was created by NORML, and sells for $4.99. It works by providing mental and physical performance tests that measure memory, balance, reaction time, focus, and time perception. However, Canary only works if people choose to use it, as Alex Halperin wrote for Fast Company. Marc Silverman, Canary’s developer, said the app is for drivers who are responsible and do not want to hurt others by driving impaired, as this blog wrote.


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