Colorado legislators advanced proposed legislation that would characterize the presence of trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as driving under the influence or DUI. The intent of the law is to reduce the number of people injured by impaired drivers and to punish drug-impaired drivers similarly to drivers who cause drunk driving accidents.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 117, declares that five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood would be the new threshold for operating a vehicle while impaired.
According to the most recent study available on drug use in the United States, in 2007, Colorado ranked as one of the top states for reported drug use. The state also has some of the most lenient drug-possession punishments. For example, the sentence for a conviction for possession of one ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to a $100 fine.
Supporters of the bill stress the importance of keeping people under the influence of any controlled substance off the roads. They emphasize that Colorado’s toxicology office has seen an increasing number of tests from drugged drivers over the past couple of years.
Critics say the proposed legislation is unfair because THC levels in the blood are poor indicators of actual impairment. Therefore, someone whose ability to drive safely is not affected may end up with a DUI conviction, they argue.
However, a bigger hurdle at this point is cost. Lawmakers already rejected a nearly identical proposal in 2011 for that very reason. According to the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, SB 117 would cost an additional $600,000 per year to defend driving while drugged cases.
Despite the costs, reducing the danger posed by drugged drivers in Colorado is an important goal. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident with a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol, contact a personal injury attorney with experience in drunk driving accident cases.