As we’ve been reporting on this blog for some time, a proposed bill has been circulating in the Colorado legislature that aimed to establish a legal limit on the nanograms of THC per 100 milliliters of blood that state drivers could register in blood tests given by law enforcement officials.
The bill, formally known as House Bill 13-1114, would have made 5 nanograms of THC per 100 milliliters marijuana’s equivalent of the 0.08 blood alcohol content limit for drivers who are impaired by alcohol.
However, after what The Associated Press referred to as “a long hearing,” the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 on Monday to reject this blood standard, saying that while there is a significant public safety concern to impaired driving, the scientific basis for using marijuana content in blood to determine impairment still needed to be reviewed.
“Lawmakers who voted against the bill pointed Monday to Colorado’s recent vote [to legalize marijuana], too. They wondered whether increased marijuana use could prompt overzealous blood sampling in impaired-driving cases,” the report said.
The AP report suggests that a recent Supreme Court ruling may have also influenced the vote, as the high court said last week that police must obtain a warrant before a blood sample is taken, provided the suspected driver does not consent to the test. Some lawmakers believed that the 5 nanograms rule could be enforced despite the measure, while others disagreed.
Still, as this was the fourth time such a measure was rejected by the Colorado legislature, more attempts are likely in the future as it took less than a week for this bill to come back up in the Senate.
After a Senate committee rejected a bill that would have set a limit on the blood content state drivers could not exceed at 5 nanograms of THC per 100 milliliters failed earlier last week, many observers thought that it would be another year before the initiative to change Colorado DUI law once again gained traction among legislators.
However, according to Denver’s ABC affiliate KMGH, state lawmakers worked late into the night last Tuesday to make changes to the bill after members of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police voiced concerns about the continuing lack of clarity regarding their ability to prosecute allegedly stoned drivers.
“If we’re going to allow marijuana to be legalized, we must have some standard,” Representative Dan Pabon, who proposed amending the stoned-driving limit into House Bill 1317, an initiative he has sponsored, told The Denver Post.
According to the source, several state officials came out in support of this proposal. The state’s attorney general said his office wouldn’t support any marijuana regulations if a stoned-driving limit was not part of the package.
HB 1317 details rules for recreational marijuana stores and includes provisions that would allow growers and sellers to operate separately.
“Pabon said he will offer a compromise that requires growers and sellers to operate under the same company until at least October 2014. After that, people could open stand-alone marijuana shops or wholesale cultivation businesses,” the Post reports.
A state affairs committee approved this bill by a 6-5 margin, which means that it may be strong enough to support a DUI provision. But, the source notes lawmakers would only have two weeks to add new proposals to the document before the current legislative session comes to a close.
At The Orr Law Firm, our team of DUI defense attorneys is closely monitoring these developments, as any legal changes could impact future cases that affect the driving privileges of Colorado residents.