CO: Colorado may set limits for driving after marijuana use

Discussion in 'The Drug War Headline News' started by claygooding, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. claygooding claygooding

    • DrugWarVeteran
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    CO: Colorado may set limits for driving after marijuana use
    DenverPost / John Ingold / 12,5,2010


    Colorado could soon establish tough new measures to crack down on those who toke and drive.

    Under a proposal expected to be introduced at the Capitol early next year, the state would create a threshold for the amount of THC — the psychoactive component of marijuana — drivers could have in their blood. Anyone who is stopped and tests above that limit would be considered to be driving while stoned.

    Drivers suspected of being impaired by marijuana or other drugs already have to submit to a blood test or face a suspension of their licenses. But the proposed law would set a standard at which the law would presume a driver impaired by marijuana.

    "It will bring some clarity to the issue of whether you are or are not impaired under the influence of marijuana," said state Rep. Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat who is likely to be one of the proposal's sponsors in the legislature. ". . . There isn't a bright line right now."

    State law already bans driving while under the influence of drugs, but law enforcement officials say the law is vague on how they should establish a suspect is high. That — plus the concern that the state's medical-marijuana explosion could lead to more impaired driving — led members of a subgroup of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to examine the issue, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, a commission member. "It became clear to us that marijuana is an area that had not been given due consideration," he said.

    Gauging impairment
    The proposal, which the full commission endorsed last month, sets the THC threshold at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Robinson said research shows that level is indicative of impairment. Anyone over the threshold would be presumed to be impaired, in the same way any driver with a blood-alcohol content over 0.08 percent is considered to be too drunk to drive.

    Sean McAllister, a lawyer who serves on the commission's drug policy subgroup, said the research doesn't take into account the tolerance level of frequent users. He said he worries that the proposal could unfairly affect medical-marijuana patients, who may be able to have higher THC levels without impairment. But, he said, he agrees something needs to be done, and he said he advises patients to wait at least four hours after using marijuana before driving. "No responsible advocate of legalization believes that people should be driving high," McAllister said.

    David Kaplan, the state's former top public defender, said he shares concerns over the 5-nanogram level and whether "there was a strong enough correlation on what impact it has on your driving behavior."
    Still, Kaplan, who is the vice chairman of the commission, said he supports the process by which the commission came to its proposal.

    Other states set limits
    If the proposal is adopted, Colorado would not be the first state to set a maximum THC limit for drivers. A number of states have zero-tolerance policies for drivers with THC in their blood. A handful of states, including Pennsylvania, have a 5-nanogram limit for marijuana or its metabolites, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

    Marijuana advocates and law enforcement officials often clash over how big of a problem stoned driving is.

    A report last month from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration found that at least one in five drivers who were killed in car crashes in 2009 subsequently tested positive for drugs. THC or some other form of marijuana showed up in 1,085 of the 21,798 drivers killed. In Colorado, THC or some other form of marijuana showed up in 26 of the 312 drivers killed that year.

    The commission's proposal will likely be turned into a draft bill and introduced in the legislature during the early part of next year's session, which starts in January. Because it has the backing of the commission, its sponsors are optimistic it will receive a warm reception.

    State Rep. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would likely be first to vote on the proposal, agreed. "I think there's a lot of support for that idea," he said.



  2. HappyBoy1981 HappyBoy1981

    • Senior DEA Agent
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    What does 5 nanograms/milliliter equate to in regards to the amount of MJ used?
    1 people like this.
  3. claygooding claygooding

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  4. Buzzby Buzzby

    • Buddhist Curmudgeon
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    I think the problem with this is that the proposers don't know the difference between cannabis and alcohol. Because of the rapid formation of tolerance with frequent marijuana use, blood levels of THC and THC metabolites tell us nothing about the level of impairment in the individual being tested.

    If I don't smoke for a week, I can get so baked on one hit of headies that I can barely stand up. If I've been smoking several times a day for a few of days, one hit would have no effect at all. In the first case, I'd pass their test. In the second I wouldn't.
  5. HappyBoy1981 HappyBoy1981

    • Senior DEA Agent
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    I was wondering the same thing...tolerance affecting the outcome. I'm sure there will court battles over that, for sure.
  6. Le0n Le0n

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    There will be several court sessions debating the legitimacy of the fines issued, and because of regulation issues, a good lawyer will get it overturned.
  7. zappy zappy

    • Pondering Primate
    • Since: Aug 26, 2009
    • Posts: 2,608


    This statement horribly misinterprets the data. Traces of cannabis can stay in a persons system long after the effects of the drug have subsided. If I smoke a joint on Monday then crash my car two weeks later, there isn’t necessarily a relationship between the two. Correlation does not equal causation. It is more likely that these people who crashed their cars were bad drivers, not stoned.



    Why is it that people always seem to assume that high-drivers on the road have only become apparent now that medical marijuana has become abundant? The truth is, stoned drivers have always been on the roads, and despite huge increases in recreational use of cannabis, and presumably increases in numbers of stoned drivers too, there has been absolutely no correlation with numbers of road accidents/fatalities.
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  8. HappyBoy1981 HappyBoy1981

    • Senior DEA Agent
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    ITA, thats why these tests need to be really accurate. Way more than they are now.
  9. gogreen420 gogreen420

    • Sr. Member
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    I think that this is a good step to show public policymakers that marijuana can be legalized and control can be enforced like alcohol. However, I think that the method by which they are going about it is not very appropriate. Unlike alcohol, tolerance with marijuana develops too fast in order to gauge how impaired someone really is.

    I would say that instead of having a quantifiable test to determine impairment, environmental factors have to be considered instead. For example, if the person was driving erratically down the road, the cop pulled him over, and the cop could see visual symptoms of marijuana impairment (red eyes, uncontrollable laughter, squinting, etc), then they would be charged with something.

    There is flaws in both methods, but at least the second method considers tolerance, at least somewhat.
  10. Buzzby Buzzby

    • Buddhist Curmudgeon
    • Since: Aug 27, 2004
    • Posts: 40,846
    Cops have been using "roadside sobriety tests" for decades to determine if someone is impaired or not. As most police cars now carry audio/video recording equipment, a recording of a roadside sobriety test could be used in court as evidence of impairment. This would be much more useful than a blood test the results of which do not actually indicate impairment.
    1 people like this.
  11. Le0n Le0n

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    In a society that demands blatant data, sobriety testing is inadequite.
  12. HappyBoy1981 HappyBoy1981

    • Senior DEA Agent
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    But if they are going to come up with a test that indicates the amount of MJ intoxicants in your blood stream then there will be a cut off number they'll use. With alcohol its 0.08. Once its determined that you're at that level its all over but the plea bargain.
    1 people like this.
  13. claygooding claygooding

    • DrugWarVeteran
    • Since: May 13, 2009
    • Posts: 9,611
    There have been a number of DUID tickets written and prosecuted using the videos and officers testimony,in several states.
    There have been people charged with DUID when they were actually physically impaired
    with inner ear problems,which really screws with your balance on your feet,but not your reflexes.
    It all really boils down to another "silver bullet" for law enforcement to use on marijuana users,both medical and recreational and give them more "probable
    cause" to search and seize more private property and possibly ruin more peoples
    lives.
    Before someone starts the old "if he was breaking the law he shouldn't be carrying enough to get in trouble",the amounts vary from state to state and in some states
    they treat even a gram as a felony.
    And unless you grow your own,the marijuana you buy was probably transported by someone.
    1 people like this.
  14. zappy zappy

    • Pondering Primate
    • Since: Aug 26, 2009
    • Posts: 2,608
    Sleepiness is a bigger killer on the roads than stoned drivers. Why aren't there tests for sleepiness? There very well could be... We all seem to accept that is our responsibility to decide if we are too sleepy to be driving. I think the same should apply to cannabis as well :shrug:
  15. Le0n Le0n

    • New Member
    • Since: Feb 17, 2010
    • Posts: 8,474
    There is quite a bit of truth in that, Zappy.

    Perhaps in the future there may be some-what of a test. I would not be suprised, at the rate the New South Wales RTA is going, we will soon not be allowed to drive cars...
  16. Victor_vicious Victor_vicious

    • New Member
    • Since: Dec 21, 2006
    • Posts: 824
    All of this chatter is based on a misinterpretation of the data.
    1) 1 in 5 had some drug. Nothing says that was the cause of the accident that killed them.
    2) even using metabolites it is less than 10%. The half life of marihuana exceeds the half life of other drugs. That would seem to indicate ingesting marihuana will lower your chance of being killed by some driver with 'drugs' in their system.

    DATA SHOWS INGESTING MARIHUANA WILL CUT YOUR CHANCE OF BEING KILLED BY 'DRUGGED DRIVERS'.

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