Advocates of legalized marijuana use in Colorado found support from a surprising source last week after a conservative lawmaker voted against a proposed bill that would expand the list of DUI offenses to include the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
According to a report from The Colorado Statesman, Sen. Tim Neville, a Republican legislator from Littleton, Colorado, surprised observers when he was the only member of the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee to vote against the bill.
The DUI bill, Senate Bill 117, was ultimately passed by the committee after a marathon seven-hour debate. The bill will now begin making its way around the Colorado legislature, but it has already spurred heated debate in Colorado.
Under the terms of the proposed bill, Neville claims that legal medical marijuana users could face DUI prosecution even if they are not under the influence of marijuana at the time of their encounter with the police.
The bill suggests that marijuana users could be arrested for a DUI if they have a certain amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood. Critics of the proposed law, however, observe that it can take longer than four weeks for THC to completely remove itself from a user’s system.
Thus, since a law passed in 2000 allowed some patients to use marijuana for medical purposes, critics of the bill claim that some legal marijuana users could be unfairly arrested for a DUI, even if it has been weeks since they last smoked pot.
In Neville’s words, he voted against the bill because “it puts a number of law-abiding people, in my opinion, in harm’s way.” He also told The Colorado Statesmen that, from his perspective, the bill “makes them potential criminals for doing activities that are totally legal.”
Supporters of the bill, however, do not buy this argument. They observe that prosecutors could only charge drivers with a DUI if they have a blood content of 5 nanograms per millimeter or more of THC at the time of their arrest.
This level of marijuana, they argue, is more than a simple trace amount that could remain for weeks after smoking marijuana.
This argument, though, has no convinced the critics of the bill, many of whom lined up outside the Capital chambers last week to testify against the proposed legislation.
They claim that the science behind the bill is woefully inaccurate, and that the bill would pose a serious threat to the civil freedoms of legal marijuana users. These critics, though, face an uphill climb in their battle to change the legislature’s position on the bill.