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Insane THC/DUI Bill Approved By Colorado Senate

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colorado cannabisBy Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town

A bill establishing a THC blood limit for drivers, after first having appeared to die on the Colorado Senate floor, was called back and passed by a single vote Tuesday afternoon.

The bill, which would establish a per se cannabis “impairment” limit of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (no correlation has been shown between this level and actual impairment) now heads to the Republican-controlled House, where its passage appears likely, reports Michael Roberts at Denver Westword.

Senator Morgan Carroll had said back in January that she feared Sen. Steve King’s retry of the cannabis driving bill would be difficult to stop this time around, due to a tricky maneuver that avoided her committee. Then, the measure appeared to die on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, before being resurrected, called back for a second vote, and passing by a single vote.

SB 112-117 passed on an 18-17 vote.

Opponents of the “impairment” measure question the usefulness of the standard, in part because THC lingers in the systems of users (since it matches the body’s own endocannabinoids, THC isn’t seen as a toxin by the body, but rather as an ally).

Medical marijuana patient and Westword reviewer William Breathes registered at nearly triple the 5 ng/ml limit when completely unimpaired and sober during a test last year. Such evidence resulted in the original bill being shelved last year, for more study.

Sen. Carroll reminded her colleagues of some of those issues in what Breathes described as an impassioned plea for legal sanity. She argued that the 5-nanogram limit is too low for many medical marijuana patients who must use large doses to control their symptoms.

“One might think we are debating whether people can drive high in Colorado or not,” Carroll said. “I’m pretty sure the vote would be 35 to zero if that were the case, but it’s not. There is no question that some people at that 5-nanogram level would be impaired. But the problem is that there are also folks at that level who aren’t impaired.”

“Why is it they think they are smarter than the guys who looked at this last year?” wondered attorney and former judge Leonard Frieling. “Why are they wasting time with this again? It’s just incredible.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Steve King, speaking in favor of the bill, quoted bogus statistics concerning the number of drivers found with THC in their system. But the stats don’t specify whether the drivers in question registered under or over 5 ng/ml, or if the THC in their blood was active — crucial in establishing actual impairment, as pointed out by Breathes.

Colrado “doesn’t need this at all, because the current law works,” Frieling said. “And if they really want to focus on the five, they can state it as a rebuttable presumption. Take the ‘per se’ words out of it. That would agree better with the science, which shows that at five, some people may be impaired, but some people are not.

“The correlation between blood alcohol and impaired driving, as I understand the science, is pretty clear,” Frieling said. “The higher the number, the worse you drive. But that appears not to hold true as cleanly with cannabis. So talking about impaired driving is one thing, but trying to give a number a meaning it doesn’t have is something else entirely.

“We took a very long look at this last year — looked at it very carefully,” Frieling said. “And the ultimate conclusion was, ‘We are not going to pass this.’ What’s changed?”

Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.

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6 Comments

  1. Law makers always have to find new ways to arrest you. The arrest % has gone down now that citizens can have MMJ cards so they have to find a new ways to throw us in jail! Because that’s what they do! 

  2. Gotta keep those  Court dockets up and those jails filled..And gotta find new ways to bring in those fines!!!!!

  3. What NEEDS to be illegal is this WHOLE “Private Prison Industry. The ONLY way they can be profitable’s by KEEPING THEM OVERCROWDED! They have a STAKE in Americans being MADE INTO CRIMINALS. PRIVATE PRISONS? WTF is THAT shit?

  4. It looks like this is a done deal. “The measure now awaits one more formal vote in the Senate, though chambers seldom change course after their initial debate. After a final Senate vote, the bill heads to the Republican House, where a 5-nanogram blood limit was approved last year by a comfortable margin of 51-14.”

    So, in Colorado they will have the DUI-C provision. But if the statewide legalization initiative fails to pass they are left with a DUI-C law and no quid pro quo–i.e., legalization.

    I began writing about this possibility on Elliot’s website last summer where I was subject to vicious attacks for my support of I-502.

    So, if it happened in Colorado, can it happen here in Washington state?

    As I noted, “there would be nothing to prevent the legislature from introducing a bill similar to HB 1648 in the last session which was a virtual per se DUI law! I can hear Pam Roach etal now…Leaving out the nanogram limit in I-502 would leave the legislature free to introduce even more restrictive and unreasonable cannabis and DUI driving regulations.” and “No matter what, DUIC limits are not necessarily going away. The can be introduced at anytime by legislators. The fed is encouraging states to do so. And it could even be a zero tolerance THC law for delta-9 and carboxy THC. I-502 DUIC provision is at least the devil we know.”

    The inclusion of the nanongram limit in I-502 prevents a zero nanogram limit from being enacted and the DUI-C provision is linked with legalization.

  5.  It looks like this bill has died.

    Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty “told reporters that lawmakers had reached an impasse and civil unions
    would die along with several other bills…including…setting a blood-level marijuana limit for
    drivers.”

    Thanks to the Colorado NORML chapters for their efforts

  6.  Well, maybe not. “…though SB 117, which would have set a THC DUI limit of 5 nanograms per
    milliliter of blood, was presumed dead this morning, there are rumors
    now of it surfacing in some way as part of the special session called by
    Governor John Hickenlooper earlier today.” Westworld

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