Colorado State reps Dylan Roberts and Hugh McKean introduced a new bill that would grant law enforcers more authority to apply DUI convictions on account of the suspect’s behavior and observable impairment.
The Centennial State’s lawmakers continue in their struggle to come up with a comprehensive set of regulations to rule over weed impaired drivers. Introduced yesterday at the Colorado General Assembly, the new bill is set to compensate for possible errors in current legislation, by which 5 nanograms of THC in blood stand as enough evidence to convict drivers with DUIs.
According to the bill, the new offense referred to as “Tandem DUI per se” could be applied “if a police officer had evidence based on the driver’s demeanor, behavior, and observable impairment to believe that the defendant was impaired, and the driver had any measurable amount of a drug or controlled substance in his or her blood at the time of driving.”
The Problem With the 5 Nanogram THC Threshold
The controversial house bill 1325 was passed by the Colorado Senate in 2013, only one year after the state green-lighted recreational use for anyone over 21. Succeeding after six failed attempts, the law raised a great deal of rejection amongst the cannabis community, on account of its lack of scientific accuracy.
Perceiving the need to develop a law that would allow law enforcers to prosecute marijuana-impaired drivers, the 2013 Colorado Legislature developed a bill that reflects on the methods used to determine and prosecute alcohol-related DUIs. However, according to Dylan Roberts himself, the 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter measurement cannot be used in the same way as the 0.08 BAC limit to provide enough proof of a driver’s impairment, since THC and alcohol behave in different ways, remain in the body for unequal periods of time, and correlate unevenly to the user’s state of mind.
While a 0.08 BAC is universally believed to affect any persons’ driving judgment, 5 nanograms of THC can have very different effects on different users. “Someone who’s a habitual user could be totally fine to drive at or above 5 nanograms, while someone who doesn’t use it a lot could be really impaired at 3 nanograms” – stated Roberts on an interview with a local news source.
Colorado medical marijuana user and advocate, William Breathes, stated back in 2013: “After you smoke marijuana, the residual and inactive cannabinoids still linger in your system, binding to the fat cells in your body. So while you might not have smoked herb in as many as 28 days and are sober, for all intents and purposes, you could still register as having THC in your bloodstream. Beyond that, heavy users build up a tolerance over time, as well as a large amount of residual THC in their system”. Breathes, who took two daily doses of cannabis medication at the time, had his blood tested to find the uncomfortable result of 13.5 nanograms of THC, on a day where he had not yet consumed weed and remained completely sober.
A Helpful Measure?
While the bill is intended to make up for an inaccuracy in current DUI prosecuting parameters, the proposed new law is causing some members of the cannabis community to raise their brow.
Since the bill would revoke the previous 5 nanogram method as sole proof of impairment, the new procedure introduced will grant police officers with a higher level of authority to determine the driver’s impairment.
The main concern is that, while inaccurate, the previous bill remained objective. According to a spokesperson at the Cannabis Consumer Coalition, although a change in law is necessary in order to provide safer ways of identifying impaired drivers, granting officers with the power to subjectively decide whether a driver is unfit to drive could open the door to police abuse, and give way to inaccurate convictions, since there’s a variety of substances that can also cause impairment, including over-the-counter meditation.
Although a public meeting will be held this Friday by the State’s rep, in order to review the current proposal, the bill is expected to enter the next stage in the legislative process before March.