THC driving limits bill is back, may have votes to pass despite William Breathes's blood test

senator morgan carroll.jpg
Morgan Carroll.
Update: HB 1261, a bill to set THC driving standards, was put on hold by the Senate judiciary committee last month -- and committee chairwoman Senate Morgan Carroll says Westword medical marijuana critic William Breathes's blood test was a factor in the decision.

Now, though, the bill's again moving toward passage, despite Carroll's view that approving it would be "a mistake."

As we noted earlier, the bill, proposed by Representative Claire Levy, establishes a driving-under-the-influence level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. During House debate, Levy tried to change the number to 8 nanograms, but her amendment didn't fly. Breathes's reading while sober was approximately 13.5 nanograms.

Thumbnail image for claire levy large photo.jpg
Rep. Claire Levy.
After the House passed the 5 nanogram version, the bill went to the Senate judiciary committee, which put a hold on the bill for study. But on Friday, Carroll says, the appropriations committee struck the study language, causing the measure to revert to its original form. Now, the likeliest way to stop the bill would be for the full Senate to reject the appropriations committee report. But all Republicans support HB 1261, and they were joined on Friday by a handful of Democrats, including senators Mary Hodge and Rollie Heath, under heavy lobbying from law-enforcement agencies.

As such, "we've probably lost enough Democrats that I don't see a way to either keep it a study or kill the bill," Carroll believes. That would make Governor John Hickenlooper the last line of defense, and while Carroll hasn't heard if his office has taken a formal position on HB 1261, "to the extent that the Department of Public Safety and law enforcement has been so uniformly behind it, he probably wouldn't veto it," in her opinion.

That's unfortunate from Carroll's perspective. She says Breathes's blood test results "were persuasive for the folks in judiciary. And we all went through and read the research, which ranged from two nanograms to twenty nanograms -- and that's a pretty broad range. That tells me this isn't ready for prime time.

"Frankly, we don't have a clue about what the right level is," she continues. "And even though we read all the research we could get our hands on, the rest of the body is probably not realistically going to have the benefit of that background when they vote. The law-enforcement community is running around counting votes on this, and a lot of people will give a lot of deference to them on a very superficial level. They'll think, we have a limit on alcohol, so we should have one on THC, and not struggle like we did to find science that isn't there to support it."

Many medical marijuana patients are worried that if a 5 nanogram limit passes, they'll never be able to legally drive in the State of Colorado again -- and Carroll concedes that "there is that risk, since this is effectively a forceable blood draw or you lose your license. With alcohol, the metabolism issues are so well understood that you can give people a rule of thumb -- you shouldn't have more than one drink every x-hour if you're male or female. And the members of judiciary kept asking people if there's a way a medical marijuana patient can tell how long after what kind of dosing they'll be okay to drive, and no one can answer that.

"That means patients can't pace themselves. In a lot of bars, they let you do a sample breathalyzer, and if you blow a .08, you'll know, 'When I feel like this, I shouldn't drive.' But patients have no way of knowing what their levels of nanograms are to try and calibrate where they're at. And that means there's a real risk of medical marijuana patients who are not actively high who are going to be presumptively guilty of a crime. That's the worry I have -- and it's probably not going to win the day."

At this point, action by the full Senate is likely to begin either today or tomorrow. Carroll notes that "it's hard to sit by and watch what I think is a mistake get through and get passed, but that happens sometimes. I hope I'm wrong, and maybe some other people will change their votes. But it's not looking good."

Breathes.
Original item, 7 a.m. May 9: Last month, HB 1261, a bill to set THC driving standards, was put on hold shortly after Westword medical marijuana critic William Breathes's blood test showed him nearly triple the proposed limit while sober. But it looks as if the measure is rising again -- and the Cannabis Therapy Institute fears it may be unstoppable.

The bill, proposed by Representative Claire Levy, establishes a driving-under-the-influence level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. During debate in the house, Levy tried to change the number to 8 nanograms, but her amendment didn't fly. Breathes's reading while sober was approximately 13.5 nanograms.

The passage of the bill by the House means it only needs Senate approval -- and, of course, the signature of Governor John Hickenlooper. And while some observers interpreted the Senate's decision to delay a vote on the matter as victory, the Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho warned against complacency. In an April 19 post linked above, she told us 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."

Now, a CTI release declares that the bill "has been revived." How so? On Friday, the release continues, "the Senate Appropriations Committee removed the study language from the bill, reverting to the version of HB1261 that passed the House on March 23... The bill now needs only to be voted on by the full Senate twice... to pass."

What are its odds? CTI quotes an e-mail from Senator Morgan Carroll, the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who wrote, "They pulled out the amendment we put on in judiciary. It is back to the original bill, and it appears we do not have the votes [in the Senate] to kill it."

We've submitted interview requests to Carroll. When and if she responds, we'll update this post. In the meantime, here's the entire Cannabis Therapy Institute release:

THC/DUI Bill Revived

Colorado House Bill 11-1261, the THC/DUI bill, has been revived, with only 3 days left in Colorado's 2011 Legislative session. This is sad news for medical marijuana patients, who will become targets for increased THC/DUI arrests and prosecution and suspension of their drivers licenses.

HB1261 had been amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 18 to create a task force to study whether there was scientific evidence that THC causes impairment. However, on Friday (5/6) the Senate Appropriations Committee removed the study language from the bill, reverting to the version of HB1261 that passed the House on March 23.

Click here for the bill.

The bill now needs only to be voted on by the full Senate twice (Second and Third Readings) to pass. The 2011 Colorado Legislative Session ends at midnight on May 11. All bills will be decided one way or another by this time.

Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee who sponsored the study language, confirmed to CTI by email that the original bill was back in play. Senator Morgan Carroll wrote: "It is true. They pulled out the amendment we put on in judiciary, it is back to the original bill, and it appears we do not have the votes (in the Senate) to kill it."

HB1261 seeks to ban patients from driving privileges by setting a limit on THC in the blood that most patients will always exceed. Any driver with an amount of THC over 5 nanograms/milliliter in their blood will be considered impaired and guilty of DUI per se and subject to loss of their driver's license and other criminal penalties. This will greatly impact patients, because many of them will test over that limit due to their chronic use, but not be impaired.

For example, Westword reporter and marijuana patient William Breathes had his blood drawn to prove that a patient would be above the 5ng/mL limit even when sober. His THC blood content, after 16 hours of fasting, was 13.5 nanograms, well over the 5ng limit. Yet he was completely unimpaired.

*Business Owners and Caregivers Unite to Defeat HB1261*
The Cannabis Therapy Institute is calling for a phone and email campaign to the General Assembly, lead by every MMC applicant and caregiver in the state, on behalf of their patients. Since this bill is a direct attack on the MMC customer base, CTI hopes that MMC business owners who have stayed out of cannabis politics for the whole year, will use the last three days of the session to mount a last-ditch campaign to defeat this bill. Please copy info@cannabistherapyinstitue.com on any e-mails you or your patients send, so that you can get full credit for participating in the campaign to kill HB1261. Patients support businesses that support patients!

E-mail the General Assembly and ask the to VOTE NO on HB1261 or amend it to the Senate Judiciary Committee version, which asked for a study to prove there was scientific evidence that THC causes impairment.

CONTACT GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Click here for spreadsheets and email lists

Make sure you copy info@cannabistherapyinstitute.com on any e-mail
correspondence you send or receive.

TALKING POINTS
• HB1261 is unfair to medical marijuana patients and will force patients
back on prescription medications that do not have nanogram levels and are not routinely tested for by the police.
• HB1261 will require a "forced blood draw", forcing anyone suspected of
driving under the influence of THC to submit to a blood draw forced by the
state. Currently, alcohol levels can be tested through urine, breath or
blood. But under the THC/DUI bill, the nanogram count can only come from a forced blood draw.
• The sponsor of HB1261, Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) admits that she
cannot point to one single accident caused solely by marijuana and that the
research on setting a nanogram limit as evidence of impairment is "all over
the place."

WATCH LIVE ONLINE
HB1261 is scheduled for a debate on the floor of the Senate on May 10,
starting sometime after 9am. You can watch live video:
http://www.coloradochannel.net/

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


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31 comments
Pete
Pete

This seems like a preventative strike against a legalization vote. Not sure I can continue to live here if police now have the power to order blood testing on demand. Talk about the ultimate 4th amendment violation. Hope we get a miracle and stop this.

Denvercruiser
Denvercruiser

HB1261 died in the senate this evening! I took the time to write a carefully worded letter to all of the senators voting earlier today and would like to thank everyone else who made their voices heard. I encourage everyone to make a point of actively participating in the legislative process on some level from this point forward, thanks again to those got up!

http://www.denverpost.com/brea...

YIPPIE!
YIPPIE!

Does William Breathes want to go turn himself in at the Capitol? His 13.5 nanograms clearly makes him a criminal. WB can come with us. Yippies Colorado are thinking about a little shame police blood draw action down there. We want to see what they are legislating under the influence of (LUI).

Click here for picture of Corey down at the Capitol:

http://www.Yippies.org/

Robert
Robert

After speaking to the Bill Room, the Office of the Legislative Council, and to the Secretary of the Senate, Cindy Markwell, it was determined that the Senate Journal of May 6 (http://www.leg.state.co.us/CLI...), page 1078, lines two through four is inaccurate; HB11-1261 is going to second reading before the Senate, not back to the Appropriations Committee.

oz
oz

scarecrow v intellect

--------------------------

i'd unravel any riddle

for any individual

in trouble or in pain

with the thoughts you'd be thinkin

you could be another lincoln

if you only had a brain

snuffleupagus
snuffleupagus

A vote supporting a bill with no scientific basis is a vote based on ignorance. Politicians, remember this, an elephant never forgets. Vote wisely.

Andrew
Andrew

All the more reason to grow your own now, people. Or return to getting your medicine from private caregivers and the black market. Most of the the MMCs have already sold out the patients, and now the cops will be staking out MMCs to bust patients coming and going.

The cops are lobbying hard to get this law passed. Believe that they will work just as hard if not harder to enforce the law. Buying cannabis, smelling like cannabis, or even being on the state registry will all be probable cause to stop you, arrest you, forcibly draw you blood, and convict you. Don't believe otherwise.

Not a single one of you who medicates daily will be under 5 nanograms even if you stop using your medicine for several days.

You don't deserve it, but you're all fucked if this passes. Sad but true.

Andrew
Andrew

All the more reason to grow your own now, people. Or return to getting your medicine from private caregivers and the black market. Most of the the MMCs have already sold out the patients, and now the cops will be staking out MMCs to bust patients coming and going. The cops are lobbying hard to get this law passed. Believe that they will work just as hard if not harder to enforce the law. Buying cannabis, smelling like cannabis, or even being on the state registry will all be probable cause to stop you, arrest you, forcibly draw you blood, and convict you. Don't believe otherwise.Not a single one of you who medicates daily will be under 5 nanograms even if you stop using your medicine for several days.You don't deserve it, but you're all fucked if this passes. Sad but true.

Andrew
Andrew

All the more reason to grow your own now, people. Or return to getting your medicine from private caregivers and the black market. The MMCs have already sold out the patients, and now the cops will be staking out MMCs to bust patients coming and going.

The cops are lobbying hard to get this law passed. Believe that they will work just as hard if not harder to enforce the law. Buying cannabis, smelling like cannabis, or even being on the state registry will all be probable cause to stop you, arrest you, forcibly draw you blood, and convict you. Don't believe otherwise.

Not a single one of you who medicates daily will be under 5 nanograms even if you stop using your medicine for several days.

You don't deserve it, but you're all fucked if this passes. Sad but true.

cannabisrealist
cannabisrealist

90% of Colorado mmj patients qualify for mmj for debilitating pain. Most of the 90% medicate everyone every 2-4 hours. Most of the 90% will be UNABLE to drive if this passes. We are looking at the castration of Colorado's mmj program.

"But all Republicans support HB 1261, and they were joined on Friday by a handful of Democrats, including senators Mary Hodge and Rollie Heath, under heavy lobbying from law-enforcement agencies."

Do the conservatives realize this is as big as government gets and that EVERY driver on the road will now be susceptible to a blood draw? What about small government?

And you Dems will be voted out.

Robert
Robert

We didn't realize that the Senate's Appropriations Committee would undo what its Judiciary Committee had just done three weeks prior. We're back where we started. The idea of measuring the amount of THC in drivers' blood and declaring it to be evidence of impairment is irresistably appealing to many in our scientifically-illiterate legislature. The General Assembly brings the irrationality and ignorance motivating this witchhunt to all their decisions, and that is why Colorado is broke, dependent on immigration for its educated class, and without good prospects for its future.

Colorado's collective fault must be terrific to deserve the likes of Senators Bacon, Giron, Grantham, Heath, K. King, Lambert, and Hodge of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who voted to strike the Judiciary Committee Report (thus restoring the bill to its original form) at 7:48AM on May 6. The Senate Journal for that day (the Senate did not convene till 9AM) states that the Committee of the Whole referred the bill

to the Appropriations Committee; although obviously incorrect, it is supposed to be the official record of the proceedings of Colorado's Senate. Accordingly, the bill should indeed go right back to the Senate Appropriations Committee so that it can affirm the Judiciary Committee's report.

I believe that many of the retrograde elements preventing democracy from taking hold in Colorado count on our natural boredom, repulsion, and disgust to keep us from returning to the Capitol and to allow the General Assembly to keep acting against the public interest unchallenged.

SOOTHSAYER
SOOTHSAYER

AN EVERLASTING CURSE SHALL FALL UPON THE YEA SAYERS

ENDLESS MISERY WILL PLAGUE THEIR MORTAL LIVES

GOD WILL ABANDON THEIR CONDEMNED SOLE

FOREVER THEY WILL BE LOST

Boulder Democrat
Boulder Democrat

Wow, the cops got all the Boulder Dems behind this. First Claire Levy, now Rollie Heath. Disgusting. Well, you know what to do to vent. Call the Capitol:

Senator Rollie Heath (Boulder)

303-866-4872

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

I am going down to the capitol right now join me, fight back!

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

This is Senator Betty Boyd's home phone number she is the democratic Senate president pro-temp and of the sponsors of HB-1261 (cannabis dui) call her NOW because they can take your blood with this bill. (303) 986-4194

Pete
Pete

Oops, just saw the post that the bill has been killed! Hurray!!!

Denvercruiser
Denvercruiser

....... those WHO got up! Sorry for the typo.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Interesting post, Snuffleupagus. Thanks for sharing it.

Guest
Guest

I hope they catch you first. Then you'll care.

Guest
Guest

And you fancy yourself as an expert.... :(

observer
observer

Are you a wizard? Why do you write like you're from the 13th century? Having a tantrum and cursing people doesnt help your cause and makes you look like a child.

For the rest of you cool-headed people, time to put down the bong and start being politically active.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

no, I will be blazed, no cares in the world after I smoke some hash.... weed helps me to rebel, it's the rebel drug of choice..... even if they take my license I can still get high, hell, even in jail you can still get high.... write all the laws they want, I will always be getting high, and not giving an F about the laws saying I can't or I need this card or my marijuana tamper proof container has to say this, what ever, as long as the pipe is packed it's all groovy in Colorado

Robert
Robert

More so than most of those being paid as such, yes.

I don't like correspondents who snipe and insinuate anonymously, or who use cutesy mispunctuation -- do you have a point?

We certainly should have attended the Appropriation Committee hearing -- was anyone from the medical cannabis community present? I have been to more of the hearings on cannabis-related bills and rules than most other activists, including people who are the paid directors of local organizations ostensibly devoted to protecting the rights of those who use cannabis. The Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers has so far not taken in so much as a dime in contributions, though I hope that will change. I have consistently advocated for patients and caregivers' rights under Section 14 of Article XVIII of our Constitution for three years by testifying and writing about almost all the relevant pieces of legislation before the General Assembly and rules proposed by the CDPHE and DOR. This effort has been undertaken in loose confederation with other like-minded activists, but has been uncompensated. Help me advocate for patients and their caregivers' constitutional rights, which are imperilled as long as Prohibition remains in force. Send contributions via paypal to:

copatientsandcaregivers@gmail.com

or call (720) 213-6497 to discuss how you can help.

Robert Chase

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Yes crandle, I've been driving and blazing my whole life, usually a big fat bowl with hash on top, but sometimes a spliff if it's my crew and I. When I smoke and drive, I never speed, the music sounds great, it's the journey, not the destination, and oh yea, the chronic pain goes away. I've already had a dui, been to court, and all your other perceived threats, and none of it was a big deal, I still can drive, get high, and do it all over again. As long as I'm high, again I don't give an F.

Guest
Guest

Seriously high country? WTF! Get a dui, go to court, get your mmj card revoked, get banned from being a mmj caregiver, go to jail. You may not care but many of us do. Please refrain from posting stupid comments and driving "blazed." Ugh!

Guest
Guest

Stoner stereotypes prevail.

I hope it passes just so all the apathetic stoners with perpetual plumes of smoke surrounding them get royally fucked in the ass.

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