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Colorado House OKs Bill Setting Limit on Pot in Driver's System

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The state House of Representatives gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would set a limit on how much marijuana drivers could have in their systems before they are considered too high to drive.

But statistics from the state health department called into question how many stoned drivers the limit would actually snare.

Last year, for instance, the department analyzed 1,510 blood samples from drivers police suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, according to data provided by department officials. Only 29 percent of those samples came back with enough THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, to be above the limit lawmakers are considering. The rest came back with less or no THC. Some of those samples may have tested positive for another drug.

"It's not going to catch everybody," Thomas Raynes, the executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, said of the proposed limit. "But we think it's a reasonable starting point." The council supports the bill.

Where to set the THC limit has been the most hotly contested issue surrounding House Bill 1261. The House approved the limit at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. But lawmakers earlier this week sparred over whether the limit should be lower or higher.

THC levels typically spike to many times greater than 5 nanograms immediately after use before falling. But, because THC amounts fluctuate in the body less predictably than those of alcohol, it is difficult to say how much a particular marijuana user can consume or how long he or she must wait to stay below 5 nanograms.

Bill advocates say some research suggests drivers may be impaired with THC levels of 2 nanograms or less.

Opponents say some marijuana users – especially those who have developed high tolerances, such as medical-marijuana patients – may be perfectly sober at levels above 5 nanograms.

The health department is one of three labs in the state certified to conduct blood-sample drug analyses. In 2009, it tested 793 samples from drivers police suspected of drugged driving. That jumped to 1,635 samples received last year, of which 125 have yet to be tested.

The department is facing such a backlog that none of the 1,176 samples submitted so far this year have been tested.

Raynes said the increase in the number of samples from suspected drugged drivers was one reason law enforcement officials wanted to set a THC limit, which makes a drugged driving conviction almost automatic for people who test above it. "We thought that we needed to get in front of this," he said.

Blood samples are only taken from people police say they have good reason to suspect of driving stoned. Raynes said drivers who test below the level can still be charged with drugged driving, but prosecutors must take extra measures to prove impairment.

Lauren Davis, a medical-marijuana attorney who is critical of the proposal, said setting a limit will probably make it less likely that someone testing below the limit would be prosecuted. But she said the health department's numbers still point out that officials have little concept of how much THC levels relate to bad driving.

"The real issue is 'Was their driving impaired?' " Davis said. "Not 'Do they have 5 nanograms in their blood?' That's a lot of people getting stuck with needles for not a lot of results."

The health department numbers mirror findings from a Swedish study published in 2008. The study looked at blood samples from suspected drugged drivers over a 10-year period and concluded as many as 90 percent of the people with THC in their blood would not break a 5-nanogram limit.

News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: denverpost.com
Author: John Ingold
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Denver Post
Website: Colorado House OKs bill setting limit on pot in driver's system


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Wow, I'm just thinking of all of the bureaucratic hoops prosecutors must jump through in order to get a conviction on an individual in Colorado for driving "while impaired". Unless, someone is obviously breaking driving laws police should have no reason to pull someone over, or for that matter arrested in order to have blood work taken! I might be speaking too quickly, but if your driving gives reason for a cop to pull you over, then wouldn't it follow your judgement while driving was "impaired"?

Has anyone been in this situation in Colorado or another state, where you either A) where found "clean", could not be prosecuted or issued a not guilty verdict? Or B) Has anyone been convicted of driving impaired by use of Marijuana and convicted without any physical evidence (besides blood work) on their person or vehicle?
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