THC driving limit: Task Force member says no recommendation wouldn't stop new bill
Yesterday, the Drug Policy Task Force met to consider THC driving limits. The DUID-marijuana working group studying the subject couldn't agree on a proposal last week, and Task Force member Senator Pat Steadman thinks its inability to do so may prevent THC-driving legislation from being blessed by the state Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, under which both outfits operate. But that still might not stop a new bill.
"The subcommittee deadlocked 4-4," Steadman notes. "They reported that yesterday, and there was discussion, but really no recommendation to act on."
Steadman was unable to stay for the entire meeting, and he understands that things "got a little testy at moments" after his departure -- an indication of strongly held feelings on all sides of the issue. DUID-marijuana working group affiliates like drug counselor Laura Spicer believe strongly that the state should impose a per se standard for THC impairment, like the 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood level at the heart of a measure shelved for more study at the end of the previous legislative session. Holding a different viewpoint is working group co-chairman Sean McAllister, who believes the different effects marijuana has on individuals makes imposing a limit like the one for alcohol scientifically premature.
McAllister's viewpoint is shared by Steadman.
"I opposed the bill this past session," he says. "I was part of the majority of senators who voted to kill it on the Senate floor, and I remain rather skeptical that it's something requiring a legislative solution. I think we already have enough laws. People are already being arrested and prosecuted for this offense, and blood tests are already being taken and used as evidence. The current system seems to be working. So the only question is, should the legislature draw a bright-line standard to make prosecutors' jobs easier by legislating how much THC in the blood means impairment. And there's some doubt as to whether one size fits all."
The Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho agrees. She's been among the most vocal critics of a THC driving standard, and she authored a letter to Task Force members outlining her objections; it's on view below.
"The consensus among experts is that there is no consensus," she maintains. "I told the commission, let's define what the problem is, so we can determine if your solution is going to cure the problem. And since there's been no increase in traffic fatalities related to THC in Colorado, I haven't seen any evidence that there is a problem."
Maybe not, but there's pressure to do something, as evidenced by this week's Denver Post editorial, which advocated in favor of an even stricter limit than 5 nanograms. Such heat may not result in action by either the Task Force or the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, though.
"This is a very deliberative process with lots of stakeholder involvement, and we advise the CCJJ," Steadman notes. "But they have a two-thirds super-majority requirement for them to make recommendations to the legislature. And given how it's set up, I don't see this issue moving through this year -- although that remains to be seen. It moved through last year, but at this point, it may have hit a bump procedurally."
Even if the CCJJ doesn't push for a specific limit, however, Steadman stresses that another THC driving-limits bill could very well be put forward after the legislature reconvenes -- "but it won't have gone through this process to build a strong amount of consensus and buy-in."
Page down to read recommendations about THC driving limits from Michael Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, another member of the DUID-marijuana working group. (The document can also be accessed by clicking here.) In addition, peruse the CTI letter to the Drug Policy Task Force, as well as information about an event tonight to raise money for another of Kriho's causes, the marijuana-legalization campaign known as Legalize2012.com.