Pubdate: Thu, 10 Oct 2013
Source: Missoula Independent (MT)
Copyright: 2013 Missoula Independent
Author: Mike Gerrity


The law creating a limit for just how stoned a driver can be in
Montana went into effect Oct. 1. Debate over the veracity of the new
limit, however, continues.

The new statute says that if a driver is suspected of being under the
influence of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle, a blood test
may be requested to determine intoxication. If the blood test reveals
a THC content of 5 ng/ml or higher in the driver's blood stream, the
driver may be charged with a DUI, resulting in a possible license
suspension, up to six months imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.

The 5 ng/ml limit has been criticized as an arbitrary threshold to
determine driving impairment. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has said that the connection between the amount of THC
in a person's bloodstream and their level of impairment is difficult
to determine.

"It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC
concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific
effects based on THC-COOH concentrations," the NHTSA said in a 2004
report. "It is possible for a person to be affected by marijuana use
with concentrations of THC in their blood below the limit of detection
of the method."

Missoula Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul says in an email that he
does not feel comfortable commenting on what blood level of THC
indicates impairment, as he is not a doctor of medicine.

"You have to establish a standard," Paul writes. "Whether that (THC)
standard is too high or too low should be a question addressed to the
scientific community."

Ten states now have zero tolerance laws pertaining to drugged driving,
and Montana is one of five others that have designated a nonzero limit
related to marijuana.

Paul says that as far as he knows, there are no numerical or
presumptive standards regarding DUI prosecution for other drugs such
as narcotic painkillers.

"However, if we get a blood sample that contains evidence of such
drugs in the blood system, we will get a doctor to testify regarding
the interactions between the drugs and the alcohol and testify
regarding the effect of the drugs over a person's ability to safely
operate a motor vehicle," Paul writes.

According to the Missoula Police Department, no drivers have been
cited under the revised law.
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