THC Driving Limits Could Jail Innocent People For Months


Photo: Quincy Hoang x-Attorney

‚ÄčThe Colorado Senate is set to take up HB 1261, a bill that would set THC driving limits at five nanograms per milliliter of blood — a level that’s too low, according to many critics of the bill. Medical marijuana patients, especially, who are accustomed to the presence of cannabis in their systems, could be unfairly targeted, according to advocates.

Even its sponsor, Rep. Claire Levy, now thinks the five-nanogram number may be too strict, reports Michael Roberts at Denver Westword. And according to attorney M. Colin Breesee, there are even bigger problems with the bill, including test results that can take months to come back, and prosecutors who don’t understand them when they do.
According to Breesee, a delay of two months between collection of a blood sample and results returned is hardly unusual. In fact, he said, one recent client had to wait nearly three months.

Besides, confusion exists about the difference between THC-COOH — that is, THC that is stored in fatty tissue cells, and is thus inactive — and active THC. Many prosecutors tend to assume that THC can be measured in the same way as alcohol, not realizing that your body loves THC so much it hangs onto it in ways that will show up on tests, but will not impede driving ability.
“Here’s the analogy I give,” Breesee told Westword. “Imagine if someone got pulled over and had to do a blood test for an alcohol DUI, and not only did the test say how much alcohol you had in your system then, but also how much alcohol you’ve had in the past month. That’s what it’s like.”
Bresee believes many prosecutors still don’t understand the difference between active and inactive THC, let alone many defendants, who have given up and pled guilty because they didn’t understand the difference, either.
Be sure to check out Michael Roberts’ story at Denver Westword: