THC driving bill on hold: William Breathes blood test results a factor, advocate says

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Yesterday, shortly before a senate committee took on a bill to set THC driving limits, Westword published the results of medical marijuana reviewer William Breathes's blood test, which showed he was almost three times over the proposed standard when sober. The committee subsequently decided to delay the measure -- and at least one advocate says Breathes's post was a major factor.

HB 1261, the bill in question, had already been okayed by the Colorado House, even though its original sponsor, Representative Claire Levy, admitted to concern that the limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood might actually be too strict. She proposed an amendment changing the level to 8 nanograms, but it was defeated -- and she ultimately voted in favor of the 5 nanogram mark in order to give the senate a chance to consider it further.

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Claire Levy.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were able to add Breathes's post to the information they were considering thanks to the Cannabis Therapy Institute, whose Laura Kriho sent it to them shortly after its publication; she just happened to stumble upon it while checking our news landing page, The Latest Word. And while Kriho was unable to attend the hearing itself, she knows from debriefings by fellow advocates on hand that the results were also noted in public testimony -- something the Denver Post pointed out in its coverage, linked above. "It was definitely a factor," she says.

Not that it was the only one. "The research just isn't there," she maintains. "Even the sponsor herself [Levy] said she the research was all over the place -- and I know she got a lot of pressure in her district. And I know the senators got an awful lot of letters from patients -- serious letters."

In addition, Kriho notes, "someone broke down crying yesterday, because they thought it was going to negatively affect their life by taking away their drivers license.

"Everyone felt this was a bill that targeted patients," she goes on. "At the first hearing, they tried to say it didn't. But at this one, law enforcement said the incidents had increased in the two years since the medical marijuana registry grew so much. So it was clearly targeted at patients."

In the end, the judiciary committee voted 6-3 to give HB 1261 more study -- and Kriho hopes they'll address the question, "Is there a problem at all? We never saw a need for a THC nanogram limit, because it's too subjective, and it affects people different. Our position is that we should go back to the FDA warning on Marinol, which is synthetic THC. That says don't drive a motor vehicle on Marinol until you see how it affects you.

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Laura Kriho.
"Legislators want to put a bright line -- that's what they keep calling it -- for law enforcement, so they can clearly arrest people for DUI. But there is no bright line for THC that determines impairment. The only thing that can really determine impairment is a behavioral test, as opposed to a chemical test." Indeed, Kriho, who's part of Legalize2012.com, a campaign to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, says a ban of chemical testing for cannabis will be part of the ballot proposal.

Kriho warns that HB 1261 "is not dead. It has to go to the appropriations committee, and the original language could come back at any time -- all the way up until May 11. So we need to keep those letters coming."

Last month, Greg Goldfogel, a member of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, advised advocates not to disrupt the process by contacting lawmakers considering a bill pertaining to medical marijuana edibles. But Kriho feels HB 1261 might have passed had people not raised their voices.

"They clearly were listening to their constituents -- and we need to keep the pressure on them. This time, science won out over reefer madness -- temporarily, anyway. But it's a guarded victory, because this is clearly not dead."

More from our Marijuana archive: "THC driving limits could cause more innocent people to spend months in jail, attorney says."

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Zuess67
Zuess67

more invasion of my privacy. if I smoke a joint after work then drive to the gas station I shouln't be considered a risk compared to the thousands leaving bar parking lots nightly over the limit.not everyone leaving a bar is drunk but one joint will effect me differently than the next person so the test results will vary and not really be fair because cops will decide.

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Guest
Guest

Rock on Will and Westword - well done! A bad piece of legislation based on a bogus metric had been TEMPORARILY sidelined at the last second thanks to you.

Did you hear / mention Rep. Steve King, a Grand Junction Republican - his grandstanding "We're saving LIVES!!" speech? Grand Junction constituency - he's gotta' GO.

Keep up the fight and let us know how we can help. Kick butt and take names.

William Breathes
William Breathes

thanks for commenting everyone, and especially thanks to those of you who brought up my results at the hearing.

Choice222233
Choice222233

Thank to all who sent in those letters we need more coming in even the one who wrote the dumb bill says it's wacko this is just another foolish unread HB like 1284 those idiots never even read or took the time to think how it would effect people they just wanna make a name for them selves .

Sharell M. Young
Sharell M. Young

I feel so accomplished knowing I helped by emailing. It feels good to be a part of something bigger than I am, that I believe in. This may not be a complete victory, but it's a small battle, and research into the issue either way is a win. Great work everyone! Keep your heads up, keep researching on your own. The more we learn the more we can educate those around us!

Choice222233
Choice222233

Well I think the like isn't working or having problems but We thank all who took part so thank you.

Robert
Robert

Absolutely it's not dead! Expect a great baying to arise from all the prohibitionists about the (nonexistent) terrible toll of THC! Senator King claims that Colorado is citing 200 people per week for driving under the influence of THC -- that's not enough injustice done; so (absent any evidence whatsoever) he's blaming them for traffic fatalities by way of adding insult to injury.

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

"Indeed, Kriho, who's part of Legalize2012.com, a campaign to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, says a ban of chemical testing for cannabis will be part of the ballot proposal."

I would think long and hard before trying to put that kind of language on a ballot initiative. You will quickly turn people off of the initiative. Picture the headline in the Denver Post (which is where you WILL see it) - "Pot Advocates Want Stoned Driving to Be Legal". Suddenly the message that cannabis should be legal for adult use will get turned into a message that stoners want to drive around high as a kite and run over your kids with impunity.

Legalize2012.com
Legalize2012.com

The sentence should have said tha the initiative would ban chemical testing for impairment but allow for behavioral testing. Since no chemical (blood, urine or saliva) test for THC would ever be able to determine impairment, behavioral testing is actually the only way you can go. Behavioral testing also detects impairment for other reasons, like other drugs, stress, illness, or anger. So no worry about the headlines you envision. Clearly, no one wants impaired drivers on the road, for any reason. We hope that the state task force that looks at this issue looks at all the reasons that people may be impaired while driving, and will help develop better behavioral tests to determine impairment for all reasons.

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

Good job Will and everyone that spoke up, we must remember its our government we make it what we want. We have science, law and history on our side if we assert ourselves we can not be stopped.

Joseph, 303 Organics
Joseph, 303 Organics

i have been trying to preach that and remind people that they work for us, not the other way around. they are employees to all tax paying citizens. we are many, they are few. we can and must take it back before it gets too far away.

Joseph, 303 Organics
Joseph, 303 Organics

thanks to everyone who helped achieve victory last night. it has been some time since we had something to smile about so make em ear to ear. again, big thanks. all of your efforts are much appreciated.

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