Yet another bill has been introduced into the Colorado State House of Representatives which primarily affects medical marijuana users. The bill creates a DUI-type law that applies to pot. While there are currently laws in place to prohibit driving while impaired by marijuana, those laws do not have a minimum limit.
The new law would subject drivers with no less than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood to a misdemeanor offense, including a potential license revocation. This would set marijuana apart from many other prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Oxycontin which do not have legal limits constituting “driving under the influence.”
Unlike alcohol, marijuana intoxication cannot be determined through a breathalyzer. While the current laws allow patients to submit to a blood or urine test, the new law would force drivers to take a blood test. However, research has shown that THC stays in the bloodstream for weeks, even months after smoking.
What this means for medical marijuana patients is that, essentially, they should not drive. Whether or not a patient is actually impaired does not matter under this new law–if he has 5 nanograms of THC in his bloodstream, action can be taken.
How much is 5 nanograms? According to Dr. Robert J. Melamede, it is a normal amount. Dr. Melamede says that casual users often have less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood while actually impaired by marijuana. On the other hand, he says, chronic users (for example, patients) can have more than that without being under the influence.
Colorado’s Cannabis Therapy Institute says that this is the third of a string of bills which treats medical marijuana patients as second-class citizens. CTI claims Rep. Claire Levy, who introduced the bill, wants to force patients back onto pharmaceutical drugs.
Normally, I would agree with them; however, this sounds to me like blind paranoia. As if every piece of legislation concerning medical marijuana is a slight against the drug. I agree that pharmaceutical drugs need a legal limit like alcohol. I think THC should be viewed the same way.
Still, I think that limit could be better executed. A blood test is not the way to enforce legal limits on marijuana. Let’s start with field tests like we have for drunk driving. While not entirely accurate, they are better than the forced withdrawal of blood.
Is it so bad to apply laws to marijuana? After all, that’s what legalization means. We can’t just let people use it and not expect regulations. Pot is one of the most highly used narcotics, both legally and illegally. Why shouldn’t we regulate it? What makes it unfair to say “you can’t drive while under the influence of marijuana”?
Again, I agree with CTI’s point about 5ng/mL being a bad metric. Blood tests for marijuana say nothing about in-the-moment impairment. There are other methods to test for drivers’ impairment. Let’s implement them.
As with all the anti-marijuana House Bills, we can call and e-mail the House Judiciary Committee and tell them why they shouldn’t pass this bill. I encourage everyone to do so and force legislators to write up a new bill to regulate driving under the impairment of marijuana. For more information, visit the Cannabis Therapy Institute.
In the meantime, here’s to more legalization and more regulation.