Pubdate: Thu, 17 Jan 2013
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2013 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Matt Gouras, Associated Press


HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Lawmakers on Thursday were considering a renewed
effort to test drivers suspected of driving under the influence of
marijuana -- a measure law enforcement agents said is necessary to
deal with an increase in such cases.

Republican Rep. Doc Moore of Missoula said his House Bill 168 provides
a legal limit for the amount of THC -- an ingredient of marijuana --
that can be in a person's blood while operating a motor vehicle.

He argued the measure is just aimed at enduring streets are safe, not
at the debate over medical marijuana.

"No one of us has the right to take a chemical, alcohol or anything
and drive impaired," he told the House Judiciary Committee. "We need
to set some standards and level to protect the citizens of Montana."

There was no immediate action on the proposal, which died the last
time the Legislature met in 2011. House Judiciary Committee chairman
Kreyton Kerns said he needs to see scientific proof this time around
that there is a connection between THC levels and impairment.

"This bill died last time because we were getting the Legislature
ahead of the science," Kerns told backers of the bill. "I am going to
need to see that science."

Sarah Braseth, a forensic toxicologist at the state crime lab,
acknowledged there is still controversy about marijuana impairment.

The state crime lab already tests blood samples in drunk driving and
other cases for levels of THC. County attorneys and others argued it
is time to use the information and set a threshold of impairment for
pot just as there is with alcohol.

Kurt Sager, drug recognition expert coordinator with the Montana
Highway Patrol, said DUI cases have remained steady in recent years
while cases of drug-impaired driving are way up. He said the proposal
bill doesn't target medical marijuana users, only those who choose to
drive impaired.

Marijuana advocates countered that testing is unreliable and measures
agents that don't cause intoxication but remain in the blood stream
long after impairment.

"This law will make criminals out of people who are not driving
impaired," said Rose Habib, who runs a cannabis testing lab for the
medical marijuana industry. 
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