It seems the secret hearings we reported on last summer have indeed revived the Colorado THC/DUI bill, and it is progressing right along.
In fact, a Colorado Senate committee approved the bill on Monday, sending it to the full State Senate for consideration. As we have pointed out before, judging impairment from marijuana in a blood test is impossible due to the length of time it can stay in your system. But that didn’t faze 4 of the 5 committee members.
“The privilege of smoking marijuana should stop at the vehicle door,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Steve King, of Grand Junction.
Pot activists said they agree driving while high should remain illegal. But some vigorously object to blood testing as a measure of impairment. Because marijuana chemicals are stored in the body’s fat, levels can build up over time in people who use pot often.
Scientists gave conflicting testimony Monday.
“Nobody in this audience wants to have drugged driving policies, (but) there is disagreement about per se limits in chronic users,” said Dr. Paul Bregman, a Colorado physician who recommends marijuana.
However, lawmakers were swayed by conflicting testimony from Cindy Burbach, forensic toxicologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She told lawmakers that the agency is getting more requests from law enforcement for blood THC tests, from 8,600 requests in 2009 to nearly 10,400 last year.
“Five nanograms is more than fair,” Burbach told senators. She said the department used a different THC screening procedure before 2009, making comparisons before then impossible.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, peak THC concentrations are present during the act of smoking and they generally fall to less than 5 nanograms within three hours.
To read the full NHTSA report, click here. But that same report, in the same section, also says this: “Smoking marijuana results in rapid absorption with peak THC plasma concentrations occurring prior to the end of smoking. Concentrations vary depending on the potency of marijuana and the manner in which the drug is smoked, however, peak plasma concentrations of 100-200 ng/mL are routinely encountered.”
So even their own report is only for smoked marijuana, and they admit levels vary depending on potency, or how strong the marijuana is, and the manner in which it is smoked. So the one-size-fits-all limit will obviously ensnare some people who are not impaired.
“I am not inclined to wait any longer” on a blood THC limit, said Democratic Sen. Betty Boyd of Lakewood.
Oh, well then I guess there should be no more study on the issue.
In reality, there is still no consensus on how much marijuana impairs driving, and there is certainly nothing near agreement on the best way to ascertain “impairment.”
But non-impaired people will be charged with DUI if this bill becomes law. Some will say it’s better to have non-impaired people in jail than impaired people on the road, and there is certainly credence in that.
But what happens to a society when innocent people are charged with crimes? Law Enforcement loses credibility with the public and the fabric of society begins to tear. Order breaks down. We are already on that road, do we want advance further on it?