On Tuesday, the Colorado Senate passed a measure that would put a limit on the THC level of drivers in the state. Similar legislation has failed six times in the last three years in the state legislature, but it finally passed this week on a 24-11 vote.
Now, House Bill 1325 will go to Governor John Hickenlooper who will decide if it is signed into law. In the past, Hickenlooper has expressed support of a marijuana DUI guideline for Colorado.
Under the law, drivers pulled over with more than 5 nanograms THC/milliliter of blood would be considered to be driving under the influence. The offense would be treated like an alcohol DUI.
The bill was only just introduced last week. It is an exact copy of a bill that was shot down by the Senate earlier this year.
Opponents of the bill believe that the 5 nanogram limit is far too low. It has been argued that many marijuana users, medical marijuana patients in particular, could potentially always have that much THC in their system, due to the frequency with which they smoke. Other opponents argue that the amount of THC in one’s blood does not dictate how impaired they are. While there is a direct correlation between blood alcohol content and impairment, that concept does not necessarily ring true for marijuana. Additionally, THC is stored in the user’s fat, meaning that it does not leave the body as quickly as alcohol does.
HB 1325 allows for people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana to challenge the charge that they were too impaired to drive. Representative Mark Waller explained, “For example, if you did not exhibit poor driving, you can put that on as evidence to say, ‘Look my driving was not poor, I’m not unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.’”
HB 1325 applies to all drivers, regardless of whether or not they are a medical marijuana patient.