Driving stoned bill back before Colo. Legislature
Ryan Summerlin February 26, 2013
DENVER – It’s been a long, strange trip for marijuana driving limits in Colorado. But a bill up for its first hearing Tuesday could clear the state’s cloud of confusion over determining whether someone is too stoned to drive.
The bill would set a blood-level limit for marijuana similar to existing blood-alcohol standards. It’s already illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, but sponsors say a numerical blood limit is needed now that Colorado is one of only two states that allow adults over 21 to use pot.
“Is it safe to drive while you’re stoned?” asked Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields, one of the bill’s sponsors.
No one argued Tuesday that stoned driving is safe. But driving-high proposals have failed three times in Colorado because of concerns that blood tests aren’t a fair way to tell whether someone is too high to get behind the wheel. Marijuana activists who thronged the Capitol argued that blood THC limits don’t accurately indicate impairment, and that Colorado should stick with its current reliance on officer observation that someone is stoned.
Other driving-high bills have failed not because of marijuana activists but because of unrelated legislative hurly-burly. One attempt failed because lawmakers ran out of time to debate it. Another failed when a single former senator who supported the driving limit was away on vacation.
The pot-legalization measure approved by voters last year did not address a driving limit. The version approved by Washington voters said drivers are too stoned if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
That 5 nanogram standard is in Colorado’s proposal. The other bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Mark Waller, argued that even though pot is now in Colorado’s constitution, a driving limit is needed.
“You do not have a constitutional right … to get on Colorado roads and put citizens’ lives in jeopardy,” Waller argued.
A separate marijuana regulation task force has already heard an earful from people who find a THC driving limit unnecessary.
“Our highways are moving along like they did before cannabis became legal,” Centennial resident Steve MacGregor told regulators. “The world has not come to a stop.”