Marijuana DUI bill killed in Colorado Senate

On behalf of Anaya-McKedy, P.C. posted in Drunk Driving on Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

We have written several posts on the proposed bill that would have set a legal limit on the amount of THC medical marijuana users could have in their system to drive in Colorado. However, this week, the Colorado Senate killed the bill in a 20 to 15 vote.

The bill, known as House Bill 1261, originally set the proposed DUI limit at 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood. But after major opposition from medical marijuana advocates and inconclusive scientific data to back the number up, the Senate chose to vote on an amended bill that called for more research to be conducted before a limit was set.

On Monday night, though, the amended the bill was voted down. Some Colorado lawmakers expressed frustration that a limit was not agreed upon, saying that the 5 nanogram limit would have been the highest in the country and would have made the state’s roads safer.

But the marijuana advocates argued that the state was trying to move too quickly with the law. They said that the limit of 5 nanograms could cause people who were not impaired to be charged with DUIs because there is no conclusive evidence that the chosen level means that a driver is impaired.

The advocates said that people who regularly use marijuana for medical purposes could have a blood level of 5 nanograms even after THC buzz has gone away. They said that there have even been cases of people functioning with 40 nanograms of THC in their systems.

Evidently, the 5 nanograms level came from advice and studies provided by Colorado law enforcement agencies. At least one lawmaker said that he is committed to imposing a legal limit for medical marijuana users and will pursue getting the bill passed again during the next legislative session.

Ultimately, the news means that a DUI specific to medical marijuana users will not be written into the law books anytime soon, or at least not until the next legislative session. But be wary, people who are using marijuana for illegal purposes can still receive a traditional DUI if caught driving under the influence of the drug.

Source: The Colorado Independent, “Senate kills high-driving bill, cites fuzzy science,” Joseph Boven, 5/10/2011.