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