CO: Marijuana DUI bill rises from the ashes, expected to pass

CO: Marijuana DUI bill rises from the ashes, expected to pass
colorodoindependent / 5/9/2011 / By Joseph Boven

On Friday, a bill to make it easier to charge stoned drivers with DUI rose from the dead and is now expected to pass by Wednesday.

The previously gutted bill to charge drivers with DUI per se if operating motor vehicles while under the influence of 5 nanograms/mill of THC 9 in their bloodstream had those provisions restored.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which normally looks at the fiscal appropriations for bills, chose on Friday to strike an amendment made in the Senate Judiciary Committee which took out the DUI per se provisions based on what some on the committee saw as an arbitrary level of THC. While the Judiciary committee had replaced the DUI per se language with provisions to do a study to look into driving impairment and THC, the Appropriations Committee found that 5 nanograms/mill was high enough to assume impairment when driving a car.

The Judiciary Committee was previously convinced by expert testimony and a blood test conducted on Westword’s marijuana critic, William Breathes, that showed even after 18 hours and a medical test confirming his sobriety that Breathes still tested over three times the THC limit to drive.

The bill is set to be heard Tuesday for second reading where the issue is likely to be debated. However, Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who supported striking the THC limits in the DUI bill, said the bill, with THC limits, was likely to make it to the governor’s desk.

According to the Cannabis Therapy Institute, a medical marijuana advocacy group that has largely been fighting marijuana legislation this year, Carroll said she did not have the votes to kill the bill.

“It is true. The pulled out the amendment we put on in Judiciary. It is back to the original bill, and it appears we do not have the votes to kill it,” Carroll wrote the group in an email.

As amended the bill would allow police officers who determine from a battery of roadside tests that a person is driving while impaired after consuming marijuana to administer a blood test for THC. If it was confirmed that a driver had more than 5 nanograms per milliliter in their bloodstream they would then be charged with a DUI per se in much the same manner as a person charged with drunk driving.

While many testified at the Judiciary hearing that 25 nanograms might be an acceptable level for a DUI per se, the state’s law enforcement agencies disagreed and stated that 5 nanograms may even be too high.

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