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Colorado Marijuana and Driving Bill Fails

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #683)
Politics & Advocacy

Like a vampire rising from the grave, the effort to impose a per se drugged driving law on Colorado motorists came back to life on Friday, only to have a stake driven through its heart Monday, killing it once and for all -- at least for this session of the state legislature.

They will still have to prove the high driver is actually impaired in Colorado. (Image via
As passed by the House, the bill, House Bill 1261, would have set a blood THC level of five nanograms per milliliter, above which the vehicle operator is legally presumed to have been intoxicated. Had the bill passed in its original form, only proof that the driver's blood THC level exceeded the cutoff -- not any proof of actual impairment -- would have been required to win a drugged driving conviction.

But that part of the bill went down in flames in April in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some legislators had concerns over whether the cutoff was too high or too law, while activists were concerned that any drugged driving bill not be a per se bill. Then, as legislators were pondering the issue, Westword magazine pot critic William Breathes took the blood test. Hours after last smoking, and with no evidence of impairment, Breathes tested at 13 nanograms. Shortly after that intervention, the committee killed the per se language and turned the bill into a study bill.

Many breathed sighs of relief, but then, on Friday, the Senate Appropriations Committee took up the bill. With little discussion, the committee gutted the study language and reinserted the original per se 5 nanogram language.

But Monday evening, a divided Senate rejected the revived per se language, then killed the entire bill on a 20-15 vote. It will be back to the drawing board for the legislature.

Driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs is still illegal in Colorado, but without the passage of this bill, prosecutors will actually have to prove impairment, not just come up with a magic number.

That was fine with Sen. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora). "If you're going to have a shortcut to presuming somebody is impaired, let's make sure the science is established," she said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous1 (not verified)

Glad to see that someone in their legislature has at least a bit of a clue.  Hopefully they continue to fight these kind of laws.  How do you prove impairment with a number?  I will be that everyone who uses Cannabis will be impaired at a different point. 

Sat, 05/14/2011 - 2:49pm Permalink

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