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Colorado considering THC driving limit

Most people know that a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher is legally presumed too intoxicated to drive. Yet a driving under the influence charge is not limited to alcohol; a driver can legally be too intoxicated to drive after consuming any number of substances, from legal substances such as prescription painkillers and marijuana to illegal drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.

Now that possession of a limited amount of marijuana is legal in Colorado, the state legislature is debating creating a limit to the amount of THC a drivers can have in their bloodstream before it is assumed they are too stoned to drive. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Fourteen states currently have THC limits that indicate driving impairment, and this is the third attempt by the Colorado legislature to impose similar legislation.

The newest bill recently passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously. The bill sets the driving limit at five nanograms of THC, which is the same amount that Washington, when it legalized marijuana last fall, also established for driving impairment. Colorado has previously failed to pass driving-high legislation because of concerns that a blood test is not an accurate way to test intoxication for marijuana. In addition, many marijuana users believe the five nanogram limit is arbitrary and that some pot users continue to be able to drive with that level of THC in their systems. Critics of the proposed bill also believe that a THC driving limit will lead to smokers being taken in and given a blood test simply for smelling of marijuana smoke, even if not intoxicated.

Currently, police officers use visual observations and field sobriety tests rather than THC blood levels to detect marijuana intoxication.

Driving impaired

According to a study conducted by Daniel Rees and D. Mark Anderson of the University of Colorado Denver, the legalization of medical marijuana has reduced traffic fatalities by reducing alcohol consumption by young adults. In the 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana since 1990, traffic deaths fell by 9 percent. However, a 2005 study published in the journal Addiction found that regular marijuana users had ten times as many car-crash injuries compared to sober drivers and infrequent marijuana users.

Contact an attorney

Currently, the House Appropriations Committee is considering House Bill 1114. It is unclear if this newest attempt to establish driving-high legislation will pass. Still, it is unquestioned that driving impaired is against the law in Colorado. Residents who are charged with a DUI should contact a skilled Colorado criminal defense attorney to protect their rights and defend themselves to the greatest possible extent.



  Based in Denver, I serve clients throughout Colorado, including Denver, Boulder, Aurora, Centennial, Castle Rock, Lakewood, Westminster, Broomfield, Brighton, Thornton, Wheat Ridge, Golden, Fort Collins, Greeley, and other communities in Denver County, Adams County, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Jefferson County, Boulder County, Larimer County, Weld County and El Paso County.