A law that would make it illegal to drive in Colorado with 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood failed by one vote in the Colorado state Senate this last May. The bill, originally sponsored by Sen. Keith King, has since pushed by King to be revisited for a fourth time.
THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana which causes impairment.
“People are dying on our highways and byways as a result of people driving under the influence of THC, just like with alcohol 20 years ago,” King told the Associated Press.
King and other proponents of the bill hope to be the third state in the country to adopt a standard for a THC blood content. The other two states are Nevada and Ohio. Both have a limit of 2 nanogram THC limit for driving. If the bill does eventually get passed, Colorado would have the highest limit.
Let’s be clear. Correlation between blood content and impairment levels are not the same with marijuana and alcohol. The correlation between blood alcohol content and impairment is quite clear: the higher the blood alcohol level, the higher the level of impairment. In other words, if someone is drunk, their blood alcohol content will be high. Similarly, if a person is sober, their blood alcohol content will be minimal to none.
THC, on the other hand, is fat-soluble and a blood limit of 5 nanograms (in 2 nanograms in Nevada and Ohio) could remain in a person’s system for days after the person used marijuana. At that point, the person is no longer stoned and their ability to drive a vehicle no longer impaired, yet under the proposed law could be arrested for driving under the influence.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NSTSA) fact sheet states, “Typical marijuana smokers experience a high that lasts approximately 2 hours.”
This point was demonstrated and reported on by Westward pot reporter William Breathes. Breathes’s blood was tested 15 hours and a full night’s sleep after smoking marijuana. The results? A whopping 13.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Although sober, Breathes would have been over Colorado’s proposed limit by 8.5 nanograms. He would have been over Nevada and Ohio’s current laws by 11.5 nanograms.
Unfortunately, this argument has fallen on deaf ears as Colorado lawmakers have voted to revisit the marijuana DUI standard in January.