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Colorado D-U-HIGH Bill Dies for a Third Time in State Senate

Posted by Jason Draizin on 05/16/2012 in Medical Marijuana Laws

Late Tuesday evening, a marijuana blood limit for drivers was rejected in the state Senate for the third time in Colorado. Lawmakers from both parties argued back and forth about how to fairly gauge whether or not someone is too stoned to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.  The bill would have made Colorado the third state in the nation to adapt a system of having a blood-level limit for marijuana, similar to the nation’s .08 blood-alcohol limit.

 

The Colorado state Senate fell literally a single vote short on the bill. The measure failed on a 17-17 tie because a key supporter was not there. The measure was one vote short of the number that is required to advance it. It had already passed in the Senate during the regular legislative session 18-17, but Senator Nancy Spence was unable to return to the State Capitol for the vote Tuesday due to a prior family commitment in San Diego.

 

Early Tuesday, the Colorado House of Representatives had signed off again on the bill that would limit drivers to five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Sponsors of the bill talked about Colorado’s rising arrest rates for people driving under the influence of drugs, as well as data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that shows more drivers in fatal accidents testing positive for marijuana.

 

Marijuana activists as well as some lawmakers from both parties argued that the blood standard would be an unfair measure of driver impairment. They made note of a certain statistic that points out more than ninety percent of Colorado’s drugged-driving criminal cases already ending in convictions. After recognizing this, they questioned whether the five nanogram limit would change behavior. Some Republicans that opposed the bill argued that the measure considered should have targeted more than just marijuana use.

 

Opponents tried to amend the bill to exempt state-certified medical marijuana patients from the limit, but the attempted amendment failed. After the amendment failed, the entire bill began to collapse and take a turn for the worse. The fate of the bill appeared to balance all on the shoulders of the lone senator who didn’t attend. Nancy Spence’s absence meant defeat for the bill.

 

National Blood-Level Limits On Marijuana

While it's currently illegal to drive while impaired by drugs, different states have taken different approaches to the issue. More than a dozen states, including Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Rhode Island, have a no tolerance policy for driving with any presence of an illegal substance in your body. Minnesota has the same policy but exempts marijuana. Nevada and Ohio are currently among the sixteen states that allow medical marijuana, and both have a two nanogram THC limit for driving. Pennsylvania has a five nanogram limit, but that’s a state Health Department guideline, which can be introducing during driving violation cases.

 

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has requested that all states adopt a blood-limit, drugged driving laws and a set goal of reducing drugged driving throughout the United States 10 percent by the year 2015. However, the White House does not tell states what their nanogram limit should be for illegal drugs.