THC driving bill: Marijuana lawyer Rob Corry suggests a compromise

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This afternoon, Senator Steve King's revival of a THC-driving-limits bill will be the focus of a hearing at the State Capitol. In advance of the debate, attorney Rob Corry has released a letter, on view below, in which he argues against the measure. However, he also floats a compromise idea that he feels could bridge the gap between backers and opponents.

As we've reported, Representative Claire Levy sponsored a bill last year that would have established THC intoxication at five nanograms per milliliter of blood. Levy later decided this standard was too strict, and suggested that an 8 nanogram limit be substituted, but she didn't win the argument. The five nanogram version subsequently passed the Colorado House.

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Rob Corry.
But following a report that Westword medical marijuana critic William Breathes's blood had tested at nearly three times the legal amount while sober, the aforementioned senate judiciary committee shelved the proposal pending future study, and an attempt to resurrect it again in May failed.

Months later, a divided DUID-marijuana working group failed to come to a consensus, with half the members in favor of a per se limit and the other half maintaining that unlike alcohol, THC tends to linger in users for longer periods of time, making it next to impossible to determine actual impairment via a blood test, at least under currently available technology.

Nonetheless, King, who declined earlier interview requests by Westword on this subject, is offering a slightly tweaked variation on the five nanogram limit. And last month, Senator Morgan Carroll told us she thinks it has a good chance of success due in part to legislative maneuvering. King will make his latest presentation in the military and veterans affairs committee -- a strange venue, but one that doesn't include members such as Carroll, who helped undermine the bill last time around.

As for Corry, he urges a "no" vote against what he characterizes as a "one-size-fits-all" approach unsupported by facts. "To my knowledge, there's no evidence" establishing that five nanogram of THC proves intoxication in everyone, "and mountains of evidence to the contrary. Every driver is different, and THC affects people differently. It's a medicine, and there's no other medicine with a per se amount that you can and can't have. If someone is arrested for impaired driving for using Oxycontin, there's no number attached to it. You have to prove the case with actual evidence; you don't get to rig the system.

"There's no argument that if you're at .08 blood alcohol content, you're not intoxicated," he continues. "That argument is off the table unless the test was done improperly or the equipment was defective, which is a hard argument to make. But that doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. If this bill passes, everyone with five nanograms of THC in their system is by law automatically intoxicated, and we know that's not the reality. As your colleague William Breathes demonstrated, five nanograms is an irrational standard."

Be that as it may, Corry would be willing to accept this limit under circumstances he describes in the letter like so:

If the bill cannot be voted down at this stage, at the very least, there should be an amendment that makes the five nanogram level a rebuttable presumption, and gives drivers an affirmative defense to demonstrate to a jury or judge that they were not impaired.

In other words, a five nanogram standard would be put in place but wouldn't spell instant guilt for a defendant. His or her attorney could present evidence intended to show that even though he was over the limit, he was not actually intoxicated.

Such an amendment "would bring a little more clarity," Corry believes. "Right now, the law says it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody is intoxicated or impaired. So, under current law, some people under five nanograms are charged and convicted for impairment. But the reverse is also true: There are some people who are over five nanograms but aren't convicted, based on the evidence."

"If the legislation says there's a presumption you're intoxicated at five nanograms, you can introduce evidence to prove otherwise -- and that would be better than the bill passing in its current form. And it might arguably be better than the current system, if the goal is to create certainty and give jurors and prosecutors a little guidance."

Here's the aforementioned letter:

Rob Corry Letter About Senate Bill 12-117

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Rob Corry says Chris Bartkowicz medical marijuana bust proof the DEA has gone rogue."

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16 comments
Denver MMJ Patient
Denver MMJ Patient

Corry makes the only point necessary to prove that this bill is in dire need of being buried, and that is the fact that medical marijuana is - a medicine. A medicine which, like many others affects everyone differently, and tolerance can be built. Therefore, a per se limit at all on medical marijuana is outrageous, especially one of five nanograms!

Who writes this crap(bills)? Oh yeah, the people who were brainwashed by things like D.A.R.E. to incur a 'Reefer Madness' state. Well, grow up, King, MEDICAL marijuana is not the devil you hope it to be.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Rob raised the issue of making the standard a rebuttable presumption last year, but prosecutors then and now, and Heath and Bacon on the Committee today deliberately falsified the fact that exceeding the per se limit is, in effect, equivalent to conviction.  My take on the seven-hour long hearing (please excuse the cross-post from the DP):

In the face of recent research (http://www.scribd.com/doc/7418... by Dr. Daniel Rees of UCD demonstrating that Colorado has experienced a 9% drop in traffic fatalities due to drivers' substitution of cannabis for alcohol, in the face of a prison system bursting at the seams, and at the cost of upwards of $500,000, all the Democrats on the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and one Republican voted to approve a bill which will make it illegal to drive not just with five billionths of a gram of THC per milliliter of blood, but ANY amount of many commonly prescribed medications!  The wrongness of this bill, from the standpoint of science, of justice, of common sense, and for the finances of our State is just breathtaking -- this was the first legislative priority enunciated by Gov. Hack (last year, on CPR).  It becomes ever clearer to me that the status quo in our country is unsustainable, and that both major parties are destroying our liberties and our livelihoods.  I call on all Coloradans to disassociate themselves from these shameful institutions -- you can change your party affiliation in a matter of seconds at:  https://www.sos.state.co.us/Vo....  Send the one message to our dysfunctional political parties that they are capable of understanding -- leave!

P.S.  Professional prohibitionist and Boulder County Democratic Party Vice-Chair Laura Spicer again testified about her son nearly being struck by a driver using cannabis -- after she had told him to ride his bicycle across a pedestrian crosswalk when the driver had the right-of-way!  That this self-serving child abuser can get away with representing her commission of a felony against her son as some fault attributable to cannabis speaks volumes about the ethical bankruptcy of our government and of the Democratic Party.  I am utterly disgusted with the Democratic Party in Colorado -- I left the Party after thirty-five years of membership last September, but I am not warming to Republicans.  If candidates for office identify with either of these parties, they are very unlikely to get my vote.

P.P.S.  Thank-you, Senator Neville, for exhibiting intelligence and common sense (even though you are a Republican).

P.P.P.S.  It may well be that our best hope to defeat this abomination will be to lobby House Republicans, but e-mail, call, write, and visit your Senator and Representative now anyway!

jenkem
jenkem

when I'm getting pulled over, I stop, turn off the car, throw keys on the ground, and light up a fatty. Then they can't prove that I was stoned before I smoked the joint

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

People who have a vested interest in this bill passing should not be given press coverage.  As usually, attorneys are making the lion share of profit in this industry. He needs to keep his mouth shut and stop taunting the Feds and writing BS like this. 

The science is NOT THERE. Don't support a law like this that has no scientific footing!

SomeGuy
SomeGuy

Thanks for the effort rob but it should be voted down end of story.  It's discrimination against marijuana patients and it's wrong. 

Guest
Guest

WHEN DO WE GET TO JUST START SHOOTING THESE MOTHER FUCKERS?

LarryQ5
LarryQ5

Helluva way to secure future legal business there Robbie boy!

Guesto
Guesto

A lawyer who can't grasp the concept of Precedent? Wow.

There is no precedent for compromise, Mr. Corry. There is no MADD outrage, because there are NO DEAD BODIES>

Idiots. 

I believe in science, do you?
I believe in science, do you?

until driving while intoxicated state politicians like Ms. Bradford are subject to the same DUI / DWAI laws as the rest of us then why do we need this unscientific new law that serves only to put more innocent/minority/sick people in jail?

PS, I demand to see State Senator Steve King's college bio-chemistry class grades. I'm betting he either never took such a class or that he flunked out of it. No matter what, it's obvious that Senator Steve King refuses to believe in science...

Monkey
Monkey

Will you loose your drivers license for a year if you refuse a blood draw like when you refuse to take a breathalyzer? It's hard to believe police acting as vampires would be acceptable to our legislators. Many of us know police claim to smell weed in cars that don't smell just so they can search them, now they want to use that same lie to take your blood. I would love to see an actual test of driving impairment, A bunch of stoners who just smoked and the legislators that are for a THC limit should battle it out around some road cones. You might find egotistical legislators are more dangerous than 5 nanograms of THC.

Jeff
Jeff

there's gonna be a WHOLE BUNCH of DUI grandmothers! There are THOUSANDS of seniors that do edibles, and their THC levels will beat any student at CU who is only a smoker! There is going to be a lot of people hurt that these legislators aren't counting on!

Karma
Karma

It ain't "medicine" because a bunch of dope smokers claim it is.

No more than vodka is medicine because a bunch of drunkards claim so.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Huh?  Did you read Rob's letter?  The only problem that I have with Rob's extremely sensible fallback position is that the other lawyers, including miserable, reactionary swine Rollie Heath, lie outright and claim that people who test higher than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood could still defend themselves.

All of you non-compromisers totally miss the point: we are in no position to compromise -- we just lost outright, 4-1; only Republican Senator Neville voted against this unbelievably stupid and wrongful bill!

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Bear in mind that your IP address is traceable -- however much we might think that these people deserve death, threatening them is illegal.  Some believe that we are on the verge of a revolution which will restore our rights -- reading the nasty reactionaries' comments in the DP might help bring them back to Earth and the sordid reality of America today (or drive them berserk).

HotTuna
HotTuna

Idiot!

The only ones who benefit from Correy's proposal are the MJ lawyers who will reap big $$$$ from defending these cases.

Don't forget Rob Corry is a Republican.

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