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Marijuana DUI Bill Passes in CO, Still Tough to Prove in D.C.

by | May 10, 2013

Colorado may have been one of the first two states in the nation to approve the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, but authorities there are also cracking down on those driving under the influence of the drug.

Our D.C. DUI attorneys understand that a controversial bill that would quantify the amount of marijuana allowable in a driver’s system has passed the state Senate, after failing six times in the last three years.

House Bill 1325 passed on a vote of 24-11 in the Senate, and is now headed to the governor’s desk. It’s believed it will pass, as the governor has said he supports the framework of a marijuana DUI law.

The law holds that any motorist who measures 5 nanograms or more of THC in his or her blood would be considered too high to drive, and therefore would be treated the same as someone who was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

This measure – and others like it across the country – has been sharply criticized for the simple fact that a regular marijuana smoker is undoubtedly going to have higher levels of THC in the blood stream. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is intoxicated.

As we’ve previously discussed in this blog, the reason has to do with the way that the body processes marijuana, versus how it processes alcohol. While alcohol streams very quickly through the body, the presence of marijuana may be traceable for several weeks.

So while higher levels of alcohol in a person’s blood stream would indicate very recent consumption, higher levels of THC in one’s blood stream wouldn’t necessarily indicate that the drug had been consumed recently or even that day.

That’s why laws like this have been so hotly contested. A person could be arrested for “impaired” driving on the basis of a test that doesn’t actually prove impairment.

In Washington D.C., it is legal to smoke or consume marijuana for medicinal purposes with a valid prescription.

The one difference between this measure in Colorado and previous measures that have failed is the absence of a “per se” clause. That is, previous measures would have resulted in an automatic conviction nearly every time for someone who tested above the legal 5 nanogram limit.

However, the latest version of the bill requires that the state has to prove that the individual’s driving also appeared to reflect intoxication. In other words, was he or swerving or running lights or driving too slowly or engaging in any other behind-the-wheel action that would indicate intoxication?

That is certainly an improvement from the other measures that were proposed, but it still sets the framework for unfair DUI convictions.

A recent investigation by a television station in Washington state revealed that a regular smoker tested above the legal limit automatically, yet drove without much of an issue. However, once they consumed more marijuana, their driving abilities quickly deteriorated.

The “study” wasn’t scientific by any means, but it illustrates why this kind of legislation is so dangerous.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175