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Committee Says No to Being “High” on Colorado Highways

After a lengthy hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Colorado is one step closer to creating a legal standard for driving while high.

Senate bill 117 would set a driving limit OF 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Tom Raines of the Colorado District Attorney’s council testified in favor of the measure. He says more and more young people are smoking pot, and that marijuana is the second leading cause of impaired driving in the state.

“We’re talking about public safety. We’re talking about accidents and deaths. We’re also talking about accountability when using marijuana legally,” Raines argued.

At least a dozen other states have a legal standard for driving under the influence of marijuana.

But opponents of Colorado’s bill say it is too strict and unnecessary because it’s already illegal to drive under the influence of drugs.

Kris Custer testified that he smokes marijuana to help with back pain.

“I’m a fat guy. It’s just wrong,” says Custer – adding that he would be over the limit even if he wasn’t stoned. “I’m a big guy. I’m going to have lots of nanograms in my system at all times. This bill would criminalize me.”

This isn’t the first time the state has tried to create a standard for driving under the influence of marijuana. A bi-partisan bill failed in the Senate last year. This time around the bill has more support. Senate bill 117 now heads to the full floor where an identical bill passed last year.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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