Pubdate: Mon, 09 May 2011
Source: Aurora Sentinel (CO)
Copyright: 2011 Aurora Sentinel


Proponents are happy that a proposed DUI law for mediclal or illicit
pot smokers now has teeth in it again, but there is just too much risk
that the measure could infairly bite too many.

The measure by Boulder Democrat state Rep. Claire Levy seeks to set a
blood-level limit for the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, that
has made it so sought after by tens of thousands of Coloradans seeking
relief from pain, a way to end nausea, find an appetite or just get
high. Currently, the bill is suggesting that anyone driving a car with
a THC blood level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood be considered
intoxicated and charged with driving under the influence. It's much
like the system used to snag drunk drivers.

But alcohol is not marijuana, and the science behind what Levy is
trying to do is at best murky and most likely irrelevant to what she
and her supporters are trying to accomplish: keeping people stoned out
of their brains from getting behind the wheel of a car.

What science does know about marijuana is that is has a much more
varied effect on people than does alcohol. And the "intoxicating"
effect itself is unlike that of alcohol. More to the point, there
absolutely is no reliable research making it clear that the 5 ng/ml
limit is anything but arbitrary and meaningless.

Just as worrisome, marijuana isn't metabolized in the same way alcohol
is. It's unclear whether someone legally and responsibly using medical
marijuana could meet or exceed this blood-level threshold without
actually being intoxicated. Given the seriousness of the offense, and
the consequences of a DUI conviction, all this guesswork and good
faith just isn't good enough.

Critics have also rightfully pointed out that this is medication the
state is dealing with, it would be ground-breaking to set blood-level
limits on a drug, when much more powerful and intoxicating drugs such
as Demerol, Vicodin and Valium have no set limits.

And in the end, the measure is really unneeded at this point. Colorado
already makes it illegal to drive impaired under the influence of any
drug or substance, and there are a bevy of laws making it illegal to
drive in a reckless or careless manner.

Lawmakers must either wait for credible research to allow for
blood-level limits, or find a more scientific way to determine
intoxication, allow HB 1261 to pursue this issue but not regulate
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