After three years of trying and despite the science to back it up, the Colorado legislature finally passed a bill limiting the amount of THC a person can have in their system to 5 nanograms per-milliliter of blood.
House Bill 1325 received more than two-thirds support earlier today. If signed by the governor, the limit will be set in stone. According to Kristen Wyatt with the Associated Press, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has already asked for the bill so that he can sign it. Hickenlooper had campaigned for setting a limit over the last few months.
(An earlier edition of this post incorrectly stated the nanogram limit and has since been changed)
The move is disappointing and frustrating for activists, who were given a glimpse of hope back in April when the original bill was shot down by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. But it came back with a vengeance, first as an addition to Colorado’s recreational cannabis industry rules that are still being debated at the state capitol and then re-introduced as a separate bill late last week.
This time around – and with few changes from it’s incarnation earlier this year – the bill zoomed through the House and saw overwhelming support in the Senate. Several people have said that the bill’s sponsors took advantage of state lawmakers having little time left for debate before the legislative session ends tomorrow.
The bill marks the fifth time THC DUI laws have been pushed over the last few years. Past bills sought to make the 5 nanogram limit standard per-se, meaning if you were at that level you were deemed intoxicated by law. HB 1325, however, makes the limit a “permissible inference”. Supporters of the bill say the change would allow people to argue in court that they weren’t impaired because the 5 nanogram limit could be disputed.
But local attorneys have called the slight change meaningless, and argue that it still sets a scientifically unproven level in state law. “It’s based on poor-to-no science and is going to end up with innocent people being punished and incarcerated,” said Denver marijuana attorney Warren Edson.
Some have blamed Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized small amounts of cannabis, for the THC DUI law. The point to language in the amendment calling for driving under the influence to remain illegal. However, the bill did not call for any set THC limits – as was the case with Washington’s Initiative 502 — and Colorado legislators have been trying for years before Amendment 64 came along to pass THC limits.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal under Colorado law, and many point out that legislation enshrining a blood limit is unnecessary. Already the state has more than a 90 percent conviction rate on drug driving cases.
Read Colorado House Bill 1325 in it’s entirety below.