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Marijuana DUI bill hits pothole in Colorado Senate

In March, we wrote a post about a bill approved by the Colorado House that sets a DUI impairment standard for medical marijuana users when they get behind the wheel. The bill was then sent to the state Senate, which amended the bill this week to continue research on just what the DUI impairment level should be set at.

The bill had originally said that 5 nanograms of THC or more in the blood stream would result in a DUI. However, after advocates for medical marijuana usage voiced opposition to the limit calling it too low and testimony was given that many people can function with 20 nanograms of THC in their systems, the Senate Judiciary Committee decided that there needed to be more scientific support before a level is set.

The issue is determining at what point medical marijuana users are impaired and unable to drive after using the drug. But finding a number that keeps unsafe drivers off of the road, yet does not unfairly punish long-term medical marijuana users has proven quite difficult. As one Senator from Aurora put it, "[w]e all know at some level that people become impaired...[but] we may not know what that number is."

A doctor, who is pro-medical marijuana use, testified that the limit should be closer to 20 nanograms. He said some people have been known to walk around and function with 40 nanograms of TCH in their systems.

On the other hand, many people opposed the Senate's amendment to the bill, saying that 5 nanograms of THC is already too liberal. Opponents of the amendment to the bill include Colorado law enforcement offices and the attorney general's office. One Senator from Grand Junction even said that the amendment could put lives at risk as people will essentially be allowed to drive stoned.

However, after mixed testimony, senators approved the amendment requiring further study before a level is set in a 6-4 vote on Monday. We will keep you posted as to what happens next.

Source: The Colorado Independent, "THC DUI bill amended to require more study before a limit is set in stone," Joseph Brown, 4/19/2011.

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