The standard, established in a number of other states, would create a threshold of five nanograms of THC, the main component of marijuana, per milliliter of blood. That would be the equivalent to the .08 blood alcohol level currently in state law.
"Virtually everybody at that level would be impaired, unsafe to drive an automobile," said Attorney General John Suthers (R-Colorado). "We're deluding ourselves if we think there aren't people (driving) under the influence of marijuana."
Since roughly 120,000 Coloradans have medical marijuana cards giving them access to the drug, police officers have asked for more clarity on the issue. Suthers says the current statute that covers driving under the influence of drugs often leads to lengthy court cases where differing experts testify about the impact of marijuana on different drivers. Unlike other states which have zero-tolerance policies for any driver with THC in his/her bloodstream, Suthers thinks the five nanogram threshold, recommended by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, is appropriate.
"Experts will tell you the chances of you driving safely with five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, it's not going to happen," Suthers said. "You're going to be impaired."
Lawyers who represent medical marijuana dispensaries and patients say they understand the need for public safety and for the need to set a level of impairment, but they want the civil rights of legal medical marijuana patients protected in the process.
"Marijuana will stay in a person's system for 30 days or even more depending on their metabolism, while alcohol will go out in a matter of hours," said Jessica Corry with Hoban & Feola. "What we need to see in this legislation are protections for the accused that would test active THC and not just the presence of marijuana in a person's system."
Colorado lawmakers return to the Capitol for their annual 120-day session on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
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