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After legalizing recreational marijuana, road safety a concern

While many in Colorado are toking up in celebration of Colorado's recent legalization of recreational marijuana and the opening of the state's first recreational pot shops, others have various concerns about this historic ruling. Public safety officials are particularly worried that despite Colorado's current laws about public marijuana use, more people may be driving stoned.

Despite the irony that marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently provided Colorado with a $400,000 federal grant toward preventing stoned driving. This federal grant will be used toward public advertising as well as training police officers to spot stoned drivers. While marijuana consumption in Colorado is no longer considered a crime as long as it is done within the parameters of the new law, driving under the influence of any impairing substance is still illegal and unsafe.

According to Colorado's newest DUI laws, if someone's blood has at least 5 nanograms for every milliliter, that person is presumed to be under the influence of marijuana. However, when it comes to the exact amount of pot needed to generate an impaired condition, the answer isn't simple. While alcohol is absorbed in a fairly predictable manner into the bloodstream, THC is not absorbed in the same way by everyone, nor are all strains of marijuana equally impairing.

To resolve this issue, Colorado is making use of 185 specially-trained experts in drug recognition distributed throughout Colorado law enforcement agencies. The new federal grant may cover training for an additional 35 officers. While a simple blood test may not be that informative in detecting marijuana impairment, people convicted of marijuana-related DUI will be required to submit to a more thorough, state-issued alcohol and drug evaluation. Hopefully, this will lead to a more fair and accurate assessment of intoxication while driving. Still, there is a wide window for ambiguity and inaccurate assessments, especially as Colorado's new driving safety laws take effect.

If anyone feels that he or she has been unfairly accused of a marijuana-related DUI offense, a criminal defense attorney can help clarify whether they were tested in accordance with the law. Since marijuana intoxication may be tested in part by evaluators now instead of blood tests, this also may give rise to inaccurate results that can be disputed.

Source: Coloradoan, "Colorado wins grant to prevent stoned driving" No author given, Jan. 13, 2014

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