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Colorado lawmakers tackle the subject of ‘stoned driving’

The practical effects of Colorado’s marijuana legalization measures have been controversial for some time now. Though a certain amount of marijuana possession, growing and use is legal in-state, these choices remain criminal under federal law. In addition, employers are not required to honor their employees’ choices to use marijuana and stoned driving remains a concern for road safety advocates. The Colorado legislature recently responded to this last controversial concern by passing a stoned driving limit.

As a result of this new bill, drivers may be brought up on a marijuana-related charge if they drive with a blood level exceeding four nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter. Five nanograms or more now exceeds the legal limit. When drivers exceed this legal limit, they may face convictions for driving under the influence (DUI) just as they would if their blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeded the legal limit of .08.

Unfortunately, the science behind this specific limit is being widely questioned. Many are concerned that enforcing this particular limit will result in the conviction of sober drivers. Some experts insist that the levels just above this legal limit do not necessarily impair drivers.

A 2004 federal study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that even one puff of marijuana could potentially lead a driver to not only exceed the new legal limit but to exceed it by several times.

Keeping motorists safe from impaired drivers is a truly worthy goal. However, the new legal limit for stoned driving may eliminate the ability of individuals to enjoy their legal right to use recreational marijuana at all. This limit is likely to remain controversial for an untold amount of time to come as a result.

Source: Colorado Watchdog, "Marijuana DUI law may help convict sober drivers," Calvin Thompson, May 8, 2013

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