By John Clark
The Colorado House passed a bill that sets a legal limit for marijuana in drivers’ systems, and the Senate is expected to vote on it soon, according to a report from the Huffington Post.
The issue became more pressing last November, when Colorado passed a law allowing a limited amount of marijuana use for recreational purposes, mirroring a similar effort in Washington, according to sources.
At the same time, however, Washington passed a law that set the legal limit of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, at five nanograms. In contrast, Colorado did not address the legal level of marijuana last year.
Under the proposed bill, Colorado drivers would also have a limit of five nanograms of THC. If drivers are caught with more than 5 nanograms of THC in their blood, they will be driving under the influence of marijuana, and treated like other DUI offenders.
According to the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, the bill is about “traffic safety” and sends “a very strong message that no longer can you get behind the wheel after smoking marijuana,” the Denver Post reports.
Sources note that this is the fourth time in the last three years that the Colorado House has pushed a bill addressing marijuana DUI laws, but each of the previous efforts has been thwarted by the Colorado Senate.
This year, however, supporters of the bill believe it has a higher chance of passing because of Amendment 64, the new state law that legalized recreational marijuana use.
Still, the bill has its opponents, many of whom worry that five nanograms is too low a standard, and will likely lead to the arrest of people who are not impaired.
But supporters of the bill claim that even drivers who have five nanograms of THC in their bloodstreams will be allowed to offer proof that they were able to drive safely, according to sources.
In the words of Rep. Mark Waller, a Republican from Colorado Springs, 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,’” sources report.
Waller notes this bill is much different from previous versions of the marijuana DUI law that would have criminalized every driver whose blood THC levels were above the legal limit, regardless of his or her relative degree of impairment.