The Colorado legislature will take up discussions on a proposed THC DUI bill that would set blood-THC limits for impaired driving if passed.This is the third time in three years that legislators have pushed for a limit of five nanograms of active THC for every milliliter of blood.
However, HB 1114 is slightly different from it's predecessors as it drops the five nanogram amount as a per-se limit an instead allows defendants in a DUI trial a "permissible defense" for blood alcohol and blood THC levels.
Basically, that means someone cited with a THC DUI would be able to argue that the blood THC levels weren't accurate or that simply meeting the five-nanogram limit isn't enough to assume someone was driving under the influence. Those in favor of the bill says this addresses concerns from the medical cannabis community that a five-nanogram limit is too low and would allow medical patients some breathing room in a court of law. But critics, including Colorado marijuana attorney Warren Edson, say that isn't the case at all.
"For me, permissible inference doesn't help a whole lot. It's better than pe-se limits, but in political land it's really just allowing this five nanogram thing to snake through," Edson told me last month. "The issue here is bad science and picking a number that is going to be engrained in criminal and family law that says 'this is intoxication' when it probably isn't. "
Read the entire Colorado HB-1114 - dubbed the THC DUI bill - at the Colorado legislative website. You can watch Tuesday's hearing online at the state legislative media site.
Those of you not able to make it are encouraged to write or call your representatives. Grassroots cannabis activist group The Cannabis Policy Project have also put out a press release on the matter, with lots of information for those of you wanting to testify. Below is their press release in its entirety.
THC/DUI Bill Hearing on Tuesday (2/26)
STOP THC/DUI - ATTEND THIS HEARING AND EMAIL JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Spend your Valentine's Day protesting FORCED BLOOD DRAWS of COLORADO DRIVERS! [editor's note: the hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 14 but was pushed back]
House Judiciary Committee Hearing on HB 1114
DATE: Tues., Feb. 26, 2013
LOCATION: Old Supreme Court Chambers, state Capitol Building, 200 E. Colfax, Denver, CO
Always Call in Advance to make sure hearing hasn't been re-scheduled: Capitol Bill Room: (303) 866-3055
Attire: Dress to Impress
Provisions: Bring food and water, as the hearing may last a while.
Read HB-1114 and committee reports here:
LISTEN LIVE ONLINE
You listen online to the House Judiciary committee hearing:
HB1114 would declare that the presence of 5 nanogram/milliliters or more of THC in the bloodstream of a driver would create a "permissible inference" that the person is guilty of DUI. Under this proposed law, the mere presence of 5 nanograms/mL of THC is enough to prove guilt, regardless of any evidence that the person was not actually impaired.
HB1114 will require a "forced blood draw", forcing anyone suspected of driving under the influence of THC to submit to a blood draw forced by the state. Currently, alcohol levels can be tested through urine, breath or blood. But under the THC/DUI bill, the nanogram count can only come from a forced blood draw.
This bill is required by A64, which states "Driving under the influence of marijuana shall remain illegal." [editor's note: There is no specific language in Amendment 64 that actually requires a bill like this and driving under the influence of marijuana is already a crime in Colorado]. The groups that promoted A64 are also -in favor- of the 5 ng limit. They spent over $2 million promoting A64, but haven't spent a dime to prevent this THC/DUI bill. IF YOU VOTED FOR A64, YOU ARE REQUIRED TO WRITE AND SEND LETTERS, and to have 10 OF YOUR FRIENDS SEND PROTEST LETTERS, TOO! This bill is a direct consequence of your vote for A64, and shows clearly why many long-time activists were against the language of A64 from the beginning.
CALL AND EMAIL HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
(Sample letter to House Judiciary Committee)
Please vote no on HB1114 and do more research on the bill to set a nanogram limit on cannabis. There is NO evidence showing a link between THC blood concentration and impairment. Other drugs that impair people, like oxycontin, do not have nanogram limits. This bill is unfair to medical marijuana patients, who will almost always be above 5 ng due to constant use, yet suffer no impairment in driving skills.
Medical cannabis patients in Colorado are SICK of being treated like second class citizens! If you want to give them forced blood draws, you will have to show some evidence that there is actually a problem. Please at least include an exemption for medical marijuana patients in this bill.
COPY AND PASTE EMAILS:
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COLORADO HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
Representative Daniel Kagan (D)
Rep. Sanford E "Pete" Lee (D)
Counties: El Paso
John W. Buckner (D)
Occupation: Retired Educator
Lois Court (D)
Occupation: Community College Instructor/Legislator
Bob Gardner (R)
Counties: El Paso, Fremont
Polly Lawrence (R)
Counties: Douglas, Teller
Occupation: Construction Contracts Manager
Mike McLachlan (D)
Counties: Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray, San Juan
Carole Murray (R)
Brittany Pettersen (D)
Joseph A. Salazar (D)
Occupation: Civil Rights Attorney / Professor
Jared Wright (R)
Counties: Delta, Mesa
Occupation: Self Employed/Consultant