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Lawmakers Take Another Swing At 'Too High To Drive' Bill

Justin Feterley
Flickr - Creative Commons

A bipartisan bill to create a THC legal limit in Colorado for ‘driving while high’ initially passed the house Tuesday.

Supporters say it’s especially important now that the state has legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

The measure would set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Sponsors say it’ll be similar to laws already on the books for drunken driving.

“It’s time we pass this legislation, I almost said it’s high time,” said Republican House minority leader Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs). Waller is the main sponsor of House Bill 1114 [.pdf], he says it’s a very important piece of legislation.

It’s the third try for lawmakers to pass such a bill.

In the past opponents argued a 5 nanogram limit was arbitrary because THC is stored in the fat and therefore harder to measure impairment. They also said it would be unfair to medical marijuana patients who can build up a tolerance to the drug.

The latest version of the bill was watered down to gain enough votes to pass. It would allow people to present evidence that they’re not impaired, such as passing a roadside sobriety test. Democratic sponsor, representative Rhonda Fields of Aurora says she hopes it sends a strong message.

“We have people who are deciding to smoke marijuana and get behind the wheel,” said Fields. “That combination does not mix. This is all about protecting our roads. It’s about protecting our families. It’s about traffic safety.”

The house tacked on two amendments to the bill stating Law enforcement couldn’t use a medical marijuana card as evidence that a person is under the influence, or as probable cause to ask for a test. The measure still needs a final vote in the house before it heads to the Senate.

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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