Back to Colorado

images 3 Back to ColoradoBack to Colorado today, where it seems state lawmakers are giving difficult marijuana reform issues careful consideration. On Monday, state Senators tried to establish THC blood level limits to help support police in defining driving restrictions. Unlike other substances like alcohol, marijuana has a long half-life in body tissues, hiding in places like fat or hair cells and making blood tests unreliable indications of impairment. THC found circulating in blood could simply be the remnants of a good weekend or a toke months ago. When Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use, a legal driving blood limit of 5 nanograms THC per milliliter of blood was included in the bill, but Colorado decided not to put in any such conditions surrounding impaired driving.   “This is a significant public safety concern,” Matt Durkin, state assistant attorney general, said in support of the bill put before lawmakers on Monday, which proposes the same restrictions as Washington. Regardless of calls for marijuana related driving restrictions in Colorado, it seems state representatives and Senators are taking an eyes-wide-open approach to the issue- the Senate Judiciary Committee voted the proposal down 4-1 Monday afternoon stating a lack of evidence regarding the effect of the drug on driving ability. This marks the fourth time a blood limit bill has been rejected in Colorado.   Senators were skeptical about the analogy supporters of the bill used which compared blood-alcohol limits to THC-blood limits, claiming the two are not, in fact, similar drugs. There is little scientific research to detail the effects of different THC-blood levels on driving skills and impairment levels don't seem to function on such a proportional scale as they do for a majority of alcohol consumers. Road tests conducted by CNN in Washington show just how confusing determining the amount of pot one can handle before getting behind the wheel safely can be. In the test, a range of subjects - from occasional users to long-time medical patients - showed little serious negative driving effects even when 'impaired' far past the 5 nanogram state limit. After a few more smoking sessions, raising their THC-blood levels even further past the legal limit, most of the test subjects eventually decided they were unfit to drive, forgetting where the cones were placed in the test and in one case, simply driving off the course all together. None the less, most did so at speeds so low, spectating police officers said they would probably give the subject a fine for driving too slowly.   These kind of facts make lawmakers wary to set marijuana blood limits in Colorado. Some Senators cited concerns that passing laws enforcing specific blood levels could result in excessive drug testing and false prosecutions. Given last week’s Supreme Court Ruling giving individuals the right to refuse blood tests in suspected impaired driving cases, forcing law officials to seek a warrant to obtain the test, it isn’t surprising Colorado was unwilling to take an official stance on concrete numbers. Senator Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from Berthoud, said about the bill - “I take it very seriously for people to drive impaired. I also take it very seriously for the government to prosecute people who aren’t impaired.”   These kind of intricate displays of pot-fairness from states implementing a legal recreational marijuana system show that the last few years work to reform marijuana has done just that - worked. Education and discussion of legalization has made even conservative law makers aware of the complexity of marijuana legislation, and ready to fight for the right balance of law intervention and regulation in their state. It has also given residents of legalized states plenty of reason to believe that their law makers are putting a system in place that will not just remain a pipe-dream on paper, but rather become a long-lasting, feasible, fact-based and fair state institution.

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