Marijuana: THC driving bill breezes through first House vote despite e-mail protests, petition
In a Monday interview with Representative Rhonda Fields, co-sponsor of the latest THC driving bill, we noted that the measure, which is similar to ones that failed the past two years, seemed on a steady march to passage this time around -- and that continues to be the case.
The measure passed its first House vote yesterday, albeit with a couple of added amendments, despite an e-mail campaign and a petition drive against it. Details and a look at criticisms of the bill below.
Driving while stoned is illegal at this very moment under Colorado law. But unlike in the case of alcohol, there's currently no number at which a marijuana-using driver is officially considered impaired -- and cannabis activists see that as a good thing, since the science on the subject is infinitely less certain than it is in the case of booze. Nonetheless, the medical marijuana industry boom caused assorted legislators to believe one was needed anyhow.
As we've reported, the legislation from 2011 and 2012 would have established THC intoxication at five nanograms per milliliter of blood and made this standard per se -- meaning that a test registering five nanograms or more would be seen as irrefutable proof of intoxication. In response, critics argued that because THC tends to linger in users for longer periods of time, it's next to impossible to determine actual impairment via a blood test, at least under presently available technology.
This year, the five nanogram limit is still part of the legislation, known as HB 1114, but the per se language is gone, replaced by "permissible inference," which would allow people who register at five nanograms or above to present other evidence to prove that they weren't actually impaired, rather than being considered guilty as a result of the test reading.
Fields, however, considers the standard to be necessary given what's thought to be increased marijuana use in the area, due to previously existing medical marijuana laws and the signing of Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of cannabis recreationally in Colorado. Moreover, she doesn't believe innocent people will be convicted as a result of the limit.
"The bill looks for active THC in the system, not inactive THC," she told us. "If someone is a chronic user, like medical marijuana patients who use it as part of their treatment, we won't be looking at something that's residue. We'll only be looking at the active THC level."
These arguments, as well as the permissible inference addition, clearly struck a chord at the statehouse yesterday. As reported by the Denver Post, not a single legislator spoke out against the measure, which passed on an unrecorded voice vote after accruing amendments preventing "a person's status as a medical-marijuana patient from being used as evidence of impairment or probable cause for a blood test."
The bill must pass another vote, this one recorded, in order to move to the Senate, where previous versions have stumbled. But this time around, no legislators have stepped up to voice opposition, leaving that effort to marijuana activists.
Continue to see the objections to the THC driving bill.