Medical marijuana: Rep. Claire Levy talks about HB 1261, which sets driving limits for THC

claire levy photo cropped.jpg
Claire Levy.
Last December, Representative Claire Levy floated the idea of a bill setting a marijuana-impairment standard for Colorado drivers.

This notion has coalesced into HB 1261, which establishes an impairment limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood; read it below. Levy's already heard from advocates who oppose the bill, but she defends the need for the measure and the standard it uses.

One fear among medical marijuana advocates is that the 5 nanogram level is so low that patients may register positive even if they haven't been actively using medication for quite some time. But Levy begs to differ.

"I'd point people to some of the studies that show that unless people are actively consuming medical marijuana while they're driving, or right before they're driving, either by inhaling it or eating it, they will not have 5 nanograms per milliliter in their system," she says. "If people really dig into the research and compare apples to apples, I think they'll see that their concern is not legitimate."

Moreover, she notes that of the states that have established THC impairment limits, "the standards range from zero tolerance, which is what we have right now for all practical purposes, to 2 nanograms in some states and 5 nanograms in a number of other states. So 5 nanograms is the most liberal level that any state has adopted.

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"I would also say there were a number of advocates for a lower limit in Colorado," she continues. "Some people wanted us to go with the 2 nanograms level, but I didn't feel that was warranted, given that this is new territory. I wouldn't support it going lower than 5 nanograms."

In regard to questions about the need for such a measure, Levy says, "There are reports that as many as 20 percent of the people stopped who have their blood tested are under the influence of marijuana. I don't have my own personal data on that, and I acknowledge that a lot of that is anecdotal. But in general, the reason for the bill is that with more widespread use and increasing public tolerance for the use of marijuana, it's important to be sure public safety is protected on the highways.

"I don't have any objection to more liberal laws on marijuana use and possession,a nd I don't have any objection whatsoever to the medicinal use of marijuana. I've been one of the most friendly legislators on this issue. But I think we also have to make sure that we're keeping up with the need for public safety."

At this point, Levy, a Democrat, is hoping for broad bipartisan support for HB 1261. As she points out, "Representative Mark Waller [a Republican] is the co-sponsor in the House, and Senator Steve King [also a Republican] will sponsor it in the Senate."

Levy adds, "I have tried to be very fair and objective about the data in terms of being sure there is actually scientific support for a 5 nanogram limit. I know this is a controversial issue and many people have concerns, and I'm not dismissing those concerns. But I think it is time we address marijuana as a drug people may be using while driving, and I think we've come up with the fairest possible solution."

Page down to read HB 1261, as well as to see a Cannabis Therapy Institute release criticizing the measure.

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34 comments
Rgator
Rgator

Yesterday March 10, 2011 I went to the Capital Building to testify before the House and watch the show.

Firstly in Colorado, medical marijuana is the ONLY medicine that is part of the Colorado CONSTITUTION! We are not guaranteed by RIGHTS to have any other specific medicine in Colorado, so medical marijuana is a big deal and all of these bills that have come up against medical marijuana lately are in direct violation of the Colorado Constitution.

In Colorado there is NO sales tax on any prescription drugs: medicine, yet the only guaranteed by rights medicine is being heavily taxed and is about to be taken over by the Department of Revenue! So this alone shows you the mentally that the Patients must face against those now trying to make up these laws as they disregard the Constitution. That being said, the DUI industry is a HUGE one here in Colorado and this bill is designed to gain MUCH MORE REVENUE, while also trying to get as many licensed medical marijuana drivers of the road for as long as they are Patients!

That’s right! The worst of a condition the Patient might be in like for chronic pain from cancer, degenerating bones and other symptoms it takes more medication, sometimes much more medication than say like for nausea and glaucoma maintenance. These chronic patients build up a huge tolerance and the medicine goes straight to the pain, if the correct strains and edibles are used. These Patients are not constantly high, but rather quite coherent quite on their full dose. This is much UNLIKE taking the dangerous prescription drugs! We are talking a natural substance here!

So for those Patients that are the most experienced in using medical marijuana and have the most tolerance and need for this medicine are the ones that are going to be persecuted the worst by this insane bill! Because I have to constantly have the cannabinoids in my system to keep the pain at bay, at any given time day or night I will have much more than 5 nanograms of THC in my blood!

“They” are suggesting, without even knowing, that “we” do not drive for FOUR HOURS after ingestion! One, because I have to consume edibles as well as smoke, there will not be a four hour period as they suggest. What? Do “they” want Patients with severe pain and conditions to fore go their medication, making them UNSAFE to drive in some cases or certainly less safe? Yeah, you want me to NOT have a good grip on the steering wheel? Well, when I’m in pain, it is much harder to do!

No other Patients have any types of limits in nanograms in their blood for their legal prescriptions while driving in Colorado!

Honestly, do you think Patients are going to be safer while driving on their prescription Vicodine, Percocet, OxyContin and the list goes on. All of those prescriptions can kill by overdose and misuse. There are no cases of death by marijuana ingestion! I have more than 500,000 miles on the road now where I’ve probably had more than 5 nanograms in my blood! I have never had an accident and no silly tickets, only a few speeding tickets. Yes, speeding! I’m a very experienced driver while medicated. When I am not medicated I can be in much more of a hurry and not as patient with the stupid drivers on the road. More than likely I am a better and safer driver than the average reader of this article. Yesterday I challenged the committee to do some real testing with real chronic Patient and I volunteered to be one for those tested.

Now, let’s look at the per se cause. Realize what this means. There is NO probable cause!!! “They” can watch me come out of a dispensary, my home or anywhere. Once in the vehicle, I do not have to do anything wrong. They can pull me over, arrest me and force me to submit to a BLOOD TEST! We do not have to be driving “impaired”! All there has to be is 5 nanograms in our systems and we are not allowed to drive. This is not anything like alcohol! This is a witch hunt designed to take as many medical marijuana Patients down as possible, all the while feeding the those that profit from the courts, the jails, the probation and all the things design to make money off the citizens.

The “science” that “they” presented was so flawed it was ridiculous! There is nothing to back this up scientifically as far as COLORADO chronic medical marijuana Patients are concerned! First some real testing should be done on at least 100 chronic Colorado Patients before they come up with some arbitrary number for all Patients. There is a very well known scientist and professor from CU that specializes in cannabinoid study. Dr. Robert J. Melamede, Ph.D. and he totally disagrees with the so-called science that was presented yesterday in favor of the bill. Please see cannabistherapyinstitute dot com /dui/drbob.let.html

Yes, HB11-1261 was designed to take out the medical marijuana Patients with no regard to their Constitutionally mandated requirements. This is nothing short of insane! So in closing here’s the deal for me. I can die today and they bury me. “They” dig up my body in 30 and test me for THC and guess what? I’m still not going to have low enough number to drive according to this very insane law that is all about revenue producing. Insanity!

Mark Rose
Mark Rose

Claire you co sponsorship this with Waller who bragged how he was helping felons like me from the temptation surrounding MMJ buy banning us for life. How did throwing me out of my once very successful business help me, help my daughter with support and college fund, as well as many other bills. he thinks all us felons should be second class citizens for ever, why because we made a mistake and were too poor to circumvent the system. Why not just tattoo numbers on our foreheads once convicted, because you people certainly do not believe in rehabilitation. You folks swear to up hold the constitution but it seems you never bothered to read what is in it. And yet you let your white collar crimes slide by on a daily basis. One day you folks are going to piss the people off so bad they will throw you all out to the lions. Dems-Repubs they are all the same, Greedy and Lazy!

Prolove
Prolove

Better prove first that driving under the influence of marijuana is in fact a public safety problem. Some folks drive better under the influence of pot!

ScrewMMJ
ScrewMMJ

9NEWS ran a great story on this last night. I am terrified for my life. How will I ever drive safely knowing that there are stoners out driving around, going 5 MPH below the speed limit and possibly even eating Funions while driving?

I think that the stance taken by Rep Levy is much too lenient. I want everyone to be stone cold sober on the road, so me and my babies can be safe. I think that every car should have a blood draw machine installed in it that allows for instant testing. Perhaps like a glucose meter but that tests for every drug. If you have ANY drug in your system, alcohol, marijuana or other (including prescriptions) your car simply won't start.

Also I think the cost of this system should be carried by the individual drivers, maybe through a $100/month driving privilege fee, which if you can't pay, too bad no driving.

Only after this is mandatory and all of you alcohol and drug abusers are off the street will I be able to sleep easy at home with my babies safe.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Another terrific post, ScrewMMJ -- a take once again deserving of Comment of the Day status. Congrats.

plumber joe
plumber joe

forget the THC levels,and do something about the driving under the influence of alcohol,like a mandatory two years to serve for driving drunk,now that would make our roads safer

TJ
TJ

Where are the jobs Claire???? Get off the pot Claire and get back to work fixing the damn economy.

Who cares about pot? Just legalize it. That would probably create a lot if jobs right there.

Citizen80919
Citizen80919

Many more people have had accidents while talking on their cell phones than from consuming marijuana. I would be willing to bet that she's had a couple of chats on the ol cell phone while piloting a 5,000 lb SUV down the road. Why aren't they banning the cell phones while driving ?

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

In fact, Rep. Levy was behind the law that bans texting and driving -- and she admitted to us that she'd like to have included cell-phone use in the legislation, but didn't feel she had the votes. Here's our post about that:

http://blogs.westword.com/late...

Robert
Robert

Using a cellphone while driving (whether texting or talking, holding it or not) is distracting and increases the risk of accidents. Levy's ban on texting was nothing but political posturing, and so is HB11-1261.

Hermit
Hermit

If the legeislature wants to go there, let's pull out all the stops and test all drivers for all psychoactive, mood altering or reflex slowing medications. Granny driving on Oxycontin for her cancer? That's a jailin'. Came back from the dentist with some Tylenol #4's and took some before driving to the store? That's a jailin'. Taking Celexa to deal with anxiety? That's a jailin' You get the picture.

Let's see, $1 Billion budget shortfall, hmmm. I know, let's kick that can as far as we can while we figure out more ways to harrass and intimidate medicinal cannabis patients. Awesome.

Toosmart4theirowngood
Toosmart4theirowngood

This is exactly what I have been thinking. I want to find a Senator or Rep willing to introduce my bill, called the "Equal Substance Treatment Act", in which all regulations that have been applied specifically to MMJ would apply to ALL prescription medications. You must register your use with the state, pay a $90 fee, wait 35 days to get your medicine, be viewed on surveillance cameras by the DOR when purchasing your prescription, and now with Levy's bill, be subject to involuntary blood draws if suspected of utilizing your prescription sometime in the previous week.

Why isn't there a hysteria surrounding Xanax, which let me tell you from experience, can impede your ability to drive WAY more than MMJ?

thedawg
thedawg

More Nanny-State BS from a rep with WAY to much free time. But thankfully, Cops in Colorado aren't nurses and can't legally draw blood, so they will have to take time out of their busy day eating donuts to go to a hospital to get blood drawn, which means it won't happen very often and this law is effectively unenforceable THANK GOD. Good Job Claire for trying to put another useless law on the books...

Michelle LaMay
Michelle LaMay

What will it cost the State when the "accused" impaired get HIV or Hep C from a forced blood draw?

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

"Findings and Recommendations by an Expert Panel"

Franjo Grotenhermen,1 Gero Leson,2 Günter Berghaus,3 Olaf H. Drummer,4 Hans-Peter Krüger,5 Marie Longo,6 Herbert Moskowitz,7 Bud Perrine,8 Jan Ramaekers,9 Alison Smiley,10 Rob Tunbridge11

"The panel reviewed evidence from experimental and epidemiological studies on DUIC, on the pharmacology of THC, testing for cannabis use and concepts of DUI control."

"In analogy to alcohol, finite (non-zero) per se limits for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in blood appear to be the most effective approach to separating drivers who are impaired by cannabis use from those who are no longer under the influence. Limited epidemiological studies indicate that serum concentrations of THC below 10 ng/ml are not associated with an elevated accident risk. A comparison of meta-analyses of experimental studies on the impairment of driving-relevant skills by alcohol or cannabis suggests that a THC concentration in the serum of 7–10 ng/ml is correlated with an impairment comparable to that caused by a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%. Thus, a suitable numerical limit for THC in serum may fall in that range."

from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com...

(at least if you think that .05 is a reasonable cut off, which it is not. -me)----------------------------------------------------------Ms. Levy, the argument, "all the other States are setting it lower" is just as invalid as when your children make the same argument for something their immature minds desire.The States with "zero tolerance" are morally bankrupt, punishing people who are not impaired for being impaired for nothing other than administrative expedience. That is simply wrong on its face. What is it that you told Mara and Ellie when they gave that argument a try? No ma'am, the science does not support 5 ng/ml as a valid cutoff point. You're going to be punishing people that didn't commit the actual act of impaired driving. Does the Torah say that's an OK thing to do? I'm willing to wager that it specifically says the opposite.

Robert
Robert

All drivers involved in accidents who tested positive for ANY illegal drug had an accident rate less than that of drivers with a BAL of .05% and comparable to that of people over the age of sixty, but you don't see this posturing hypocrite mounting a campaign to remove retirees from our roads. This is one more outrage -- we cannot stop it (I think Wanda is being overly optimistic), but we can fight it. It would help if those who want us to work with legislators would just shut up; I wrote one letter to the committee (http://blogs.westword.com/late... and I plan to testify against HB11-1261, but I expect that some yelling will be in order too -- what legislator will be able to resist this delectable morsel?

Guest
Guest

ugh....not this again.

Wanda James
Wanda James

My only question is what are you protecting us from? The thousands of deaths on the highways from people impaired by MMJ?

Ms. Levy, please concern yourself with the real issues affecting you constituents. Have you spoken with Congressman Polis who has informed me that he has not received ONE letter, phone call, complaint, or concern about medicinal marijuana in his district! NOT ONE!

Ms. Levy, your entire district is very much PRO-MMJ. It has been since I was student at CU in the early 80s. Perhaps if we make this a large enough issue, Ms. Levy will find herself back in the public sector and all of this non-sense will stop.

This is all just reefer madness. The only way to stop the legislators is to make sure they are aware that this community has enough money and influence to make sure they are not re-elected.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

You say driving while drugged has increased because of medical cannabis, and there is carnage and mayhem on the highways? That's the trouble with hysterical rhetoric, it's so often wrong, wrong, wrong. In a stunning defeat for the mongers of hysterical rhetoric everywhere, there has been no statistically significant increase in "drugged" driving in any medical cannabis State, and California and 3 other medical cannabis States led the entire nation to a statistically significant decrease in the incidence of "drugged" driving. California did this while more than tripling the number of protected patients.

On 12/10/2010 SAMHSA published the results of a study of the incidence in "drugged" driving and was pleased to announce that the nationwide incidence of "drugged" driving had declined by a statistically significant percentage. They were also pleased to announce that there was not even a single State which had suffered a statistically significant increase in the incidence of "drugged" driving.

SAMHSA credited the nationwide, statistically significant reduction in "drugged" driving to the 7 States which also enjoyed a statistically significant decreases in its incidence during the study's time frame.

4 of the 7 States are States that have laws like the California Compassionate Use Act (CUA) which decriminalize medicinal cannabis. Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, and (hold onto your hat!) California. The latter is of course the Know Nothing prohibitionists "poster child" for medical cannabis run amuck. But that's why I call them Know Nothings, because they simply know nothing about that which they seem so certain is true.

Attention Know Nothings: Read 'em and weep:http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/205...

offscreen
offscreen

Except that the data that they analyzed were from self-reports: "The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks persons aged 12 or older if they had driven a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year." Not real reliable input, I'd say.

Perryparks
Perryparks

look at ntsb studies in 2002 and nhtsa studies around the same time..perry parks, CSPretired corporate safety director

Fletch
Fletch

Pretty obvious she was being sarcastic about accidents... But still, good knowledge drop there.

Toosmart4theirowngood
Toosmart4theirowngood

I can't get over how many of our elected officials are occupying their time concerned with marijuana, something that has been around forever.

Aren't there more important issues to deal with? Isn't this all just a farce to cover the fact they you don't actually do anything?

Duchess Of Dank
Duchess Of Dank

they know that if they do something with medical marijuana it will get their name out there and noticed. **rolls eyes**colorado has gone too far, as a dispensary owner i am extremely disappointed and am not surprised to see a lot of disensaries for sale. who wants to put up with all this BS? every other week there's a new bill with someone else trying to get their name out there.

Commjexpert
Commjexpert

I will soon be providing the Rep and others with a letter from the Washington Prosecuting Attorneys Association, who weighed in on the DUID madness being proposed (& defeated) report that there is NO MEDICAL UNDERSTANDING of nanograms in blood to identify impairment, so it is NOT a recommended methodology to address DUID of marijuana......

Mark Rose
Mark Rose

I was tested years ago for nano-gram levels while in a work release program. the idea was the levels would go down and be out of my system within that time if I did not consume cannabis. The nano-gram levels only went down a couple of points during the first couple of weeks, and after 60 days was still not out of my system and were at levels that folks had when smoking a day or two before. this is bad science for this issue, shame on you Claire! You are supposed to represent us up here, The Citizens of Nederland Rollinsville etc. we do not want your help if this is what you call helping us. And if you keep it up I will work my butt off to make sure you go back to being a private citizen not an elected official. Your lack of spine to stand up to the right wing machine of Colorado is sickening.

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