THC driving limit: Task Force member says no recommendation wouldn't stop new bill

Thumbnail image for hdnet thc driving.JPG
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.

senator pat steadman.jpg
Pat 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.



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15 comments
Jason Lauve
Jason Lauve

So as we have already seen the MMIG supports the "Drugged Driving Is Impaired Driving" campaign, which is derogatory, prejudicial, and blatantly discriminatory. Where did they get the money for this?

And then they say in their recommendations...

"In the alternative to new legislation, this report recommends that:...2. The Colorado Department of Transportation, the Medical Marijuana IndustryGroup, and other leaders of the medical marijuana community continue to educatethe public on the hazards of impaired driving, ..."

So they are going to continue to spread lies and propaganda in direct violation of my Civil Rights?  Who are these self proclaimed "leaders" of the medical Cannabis industry?  I did not elect you so get out of my body and stop making assumptions!

Instntkrma
Instntkrma

Colorado is blessed to have Pat Steadman. I don't care what party you are for - Pat gives a damn and he has a good head on his shoulders.

Monkey
Monkey

"drug counselor Laura Spicer believe strongly that the state should impose a per se standard for THC impairment"This is why this is happening, MONEY. This woman and many drug counselors will make money from people who were not impaired, more potential customers. I assure you the biggest supporters of this will be drug counselors, drug testing facilities and businesses that work with the "community service" program, free labor. They will all tell you it is for safer roads, you must decide for yourself if science disagrees.

KaDargo
KaDargo

Are the innocent going to be once again persecuted out of fear?  This smells like a witch hunt.

I vote instead that something be done about the bars and breweries who continue to spawn impaired drivers onto our roadways.  There exists lots of evidence that that continues to be a problem.

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

I think this point from CTI's letter sums it up perfectly - "Given the fact that there is no empirical data to show that there is a THC/DUI driving "problem" in Colorado, it may very well be that there is no problem at all."

Lawmakers should NEVER enact legislation that can ruin otherwise innocent people's lives without solid data to show cause and effect.  In other words - if you can't point to an actual problem that you are solving, and show how your law solves that problem, then the law should not be introduced.  This is a basic decision making skill that any 15 year old can describe to you. 

Why the hell can't our legislators get it right?  Have we seriously learned nothing from a 40+ year war on drugs failure?!?!

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Legalize It Now!

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Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Steadman voted for SB10-109, HB10-1284, and HB11-1043 -- all of them deliberate abrogations of the rights of patients and caregivers under Article XVIII, Section 14 of Colorado's Constitution which have cut off access by patients across rural Colorado to their medicine and threaten to expose many Coloradans to Federal criminal liability.

It's great that Steadman does not support exacerbating our present defective laws regarding DUID, but it hardly makes up for consistently, illegitimately voting to take away patients and caregivers' constitutional rights!

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

Senator Hudak was their yesterday and took many people to task regarding the levels, Steadman did leave before the DUI per se meeting, but it was a forgone conclusion so I do not fault him for that.  But please also give Senator Hudak, District 19, credit because she did question and fight for us yesterday.

Jake Browne
Jake Browne

While I agree that money is a factor, Laura Spicer's crusade is because of this improbable exchange (from her testimony in favor of HB1261):

""This is my 10 year old son Ben....In April of 2010 Ben and I were riding bikes. We stopped at a sidewalk bike path at at traffic light. When the light turned green and ben started to cross on his bicycle I heard the horrifying screech of car brakes. When I looked up Ben was directly in the path of a driver making a right-hand turn. My heart literally stopped. It felt like that. The driver came within inches of my son. He was so frightened that he fell off his bike into street and ran to the curb leaving his bike in front of the vehicle. I noticed that the driver had his window open so I shouted at the driver "Watch where you're going you nearly killed my son" The driver didn't get out of the car. I approached the driver and instantly smelled marijuana wafting from the car. I was alarmed and I said "you are not driving high are you?" and he waved a profanity with his hand and said "leave me alone I have a licence" meaning, a MMJ card. I countered "you don't have a license to kill!" ...I didn't think to get the license plate. My son will not ride his bike to this day....My son followed the rules that day. He waited for the green light and proceeded with caution. That driver didn't and to me that he was a public safety nightmare. He lacked responsibility and carried an attitude of entitlement to drive because he held a MMJ card. I knew what I witnessed was wrong and I needed to do something about it"

Suuuuuuure, Laura. 

Read her entire testimony here: http://www.medicinalcolorado.o...

Guest Who
Guest Who

the legal term is "Precedent". 

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I caught Spicer at the hearing -- she testified that she encouraged her child to ride his bicycle into a pedestrian crosswalk (which is child abuse) just as a driver making a legal righthand turn on a green light entered the intersection.

It seems not a very effective scare story about cannabis and driving, to testify that you almost got your autistic son killed by your ignorance of the traffic laws, and that a stoned driver successfully avoided colliding with someone violating the right-of-way, but this was Laura Spicer's testimony.

In militating for a 2 ng/ml per se standard, this prohibitionist was even more extreme than the DAs on the Marijuana Per Se Working Group.  She is vice-chair of the Boulder County Democratic (Fascist) Party.  Do you believe that Ms. Spicer should represent Boulder Democrats?  Give Party Chair Dan Gould a call at (303) 442-3423 or e-mail him at:  chair@bouldercountydems.org.

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

If that driver had been eating a burrito at the moment she would be crusading for a per se limit on saturated fat (from refried beans) in your bloodstream too, right?  Riiiight....  :-)

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