Colorado State Senator to Introduce Stoned Driving Bill

Colorado State Senator to Introduce Stoned Driving Bill

DENVER, CO — A state senator in Colorado has said he will introduce a bill to the state legislature that will make it easier for prosecutors to convict offenders for driving under the influence of cannabis.

State Senator Steve King said Friday that he is writing a proposal that would set limits for how much THC a driver could have in their blood before they would be “driving high.”

“I think it’s time we cleared the smoke out of this,” King, a Republican, told the Denver Post. “If you drive high, it’s against the law, it puts people’s lives at risk and you should deal with the consequences of making that bad decision.”

Since last year, a commission has been reviewing the state’s marijuana policies to deliver recommendations to Colorado’s Drug Policy Task Force in order to determine a legal THC impairment limit while driving.  The commission was formed after a similar “stoned driving law”,  House Bill 1261, was defeated last April. The bill proposed a legal impairment limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in an effort to solidify marijuana-related DUI laws.

Colorado’s House of Representatives approved the bill, but it lost traction in the Senate Judiciary Committee due to concerns that the 5 nanogram limit was too strict due to the lingering presence of THC after a patient is sober. Essentially, trace amounts of THC can show up in a person’s blood even though they are no longer impaired. The lack of evidence linking a specific blood content to marijuana impairment was an important factor.

State Senator Morgan Caroll, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said that any such law would face challenges, because there is no conclusive research to determine a level of THC at which everyone is impaired. Frequent users and medical marijuana patients likely have THC in their bodies at all times, even when they are not impaired.

Senator Caroll has suggested that a zero-tolerance limit could be considered, but that would force medical marijuana patients to choose between driving or their chosen medicine. “That is not a choice we have forced other people with other medications to face,” she said.

Under Colorado law, drivers are prohibited from operating motor vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The legislature has made distinctions between the two offenses (DUI, driving under the influence, and DWAI, driving while alcohol impaired), but a driver is presumed to have committed either offense if blood or breath tests show a blood alcohol level of .08 or above.

For alcohol related offenses, such tests are prominently used. But for marijuana related offenses, no test or standard has been established to determine when a driver is legally impaired.

Presently, no immediate chemical tests are available to measure a driver’s level of impairment. Law enforcement has to rely on special training to recognize objective signs of recent marijuana use. However, many officers are not drug recognition experts, and may misinterpret signs of intoxication. As such, objective recognition standards will likely be part of the recommendations delivered to the Drug Policy Task Force.

  • Chris

    I’ve read at least one study showing that driving under the influence of marijuana doesn’t actually impair your ability to drive. It alters it, e.g. driving slower and more cautiously, however it doesn’t alter it in a way that causes an increase in accidents. Where’s the evidence showing this is necessary?

    • Doug

      But Chris, it’s the evil weed and our kids are in danger.

      • Kerry Bacon

        If it’s so evil, then why does it help our cells target and kill cancer cells? Not allowing it for children with severe types of cancer is more dangerous, Doug. Please learn your fact before posting.

        • Toby

          I can tell that you know sarcasm when you read it.

    • Kerry Bacon

      There has been very few to no accidents directly related to cannabis consumption.

  • Don Ellis

    This is the biggest joke, I got pulled over last year and the officer thought I was stoned.  He gives me a field sobriety test, tells me to follow his fingers with my eyes, and when I am able to follow it to my nose and cross my eyes, he tells me “Oh, that’s a good sign, when you’re stoned on marijuana you are unable to cross your eyes.”  Another statement he made, when he asked me to stick out my tongue, he mentioned he didn’t see any “green coloration.”  And this was an officer who was CALLED IN from the on scene uniform who pulled me over.  If this is the knowledge your “drug recognition experts” have I am very very disappointed and sorry for the state of affairs.  Legalize, educate, medicate, regulate.

  • noname

    I agree that driving under the influence is bad but like Chris said, there is no evidence that driving under the influence of cannabis is going to make one drive worse. 

    What I am afraid for is that the government is going to put heaver penalties on those who are driving under the influence of cannabis thus sending out a message; If your going to do drugs and drive, let it be alcohol because you will get a lower punishment if caught on that.

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  • Bill

    Why be afraid of a stoned driver ?  The most harm a stoned driver can do to you , is to make you late  getting  to where you are going because you get stuck driving behind them .

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