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Marijuana DUI Law in Colorado Raises Intoxication Questions

Colorado Legalizes Recreational Marijuana Use, but Restrictive Marijuana DUI Laws Seriously Limit Consumptionshutterstock_530401501

On January 1st, 2014, Colorado’s new marijuana legislation will go into effect, allowing stores to sell marijuana for recreational use. However, the state has put several restrictions on sales in place, including limiting customers to one ounce, at a cost of around $200. Additionally, the state has passed the most restrictive DUI laws in the US, to limit marijuana DUI.

The measure, which was passed last spring, assumes that drivers are too impaired if they have 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood. THC will show up in a test for weeks after a consumer ingests marijuana in some form, so the law does not provide an actual standard of intoxication. Instead, it creates a “permissive inference,” and could limit some users’ ability to drive well after the drug’s effects wear off.

“We don’t have a consensus as to what levels of THC are consistently correlated with behavioral impairment,” Paul Armentano, deputy director for the pot advocacy group NORML, told me. But, he added, “Marijuana policy has never been driven by science in this country.” This is the first case that a legal measure states that the presumption of any amount of THC in the blood means, automatically, that the drug user is high.

Most states, however, do not allow drivers to test for any amount of THC in their blood, and any amount could be considered a marijuana DUI. Colorado and Washington State are, so far, the only states that allow recreational use of marijuana. Several other states allow medical marijuana use, but have not set blood test limits for drivers, who can still be arrested for marijuana DUI.

“Smoking marijuana has a very negative effect on your ability to operate a motor vehicle,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told SF Gate. “It’s quite dangerous to you, your passengers and others on the road.”

“We know that when people smoke marijuana they lose some of their peripheral vision,” Dr. Marilyn Huestis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Intramural Research Program, told Popular Science. “We know it affects the passage of time, or the idea of how rapidly time is passing. It affects balance. And one of the most interesting areas it affects is the prefrontal cortex.” That effects the consumer’s decision-making ability.

Colorado’s marijuana DUI measure might be restrictive, but it does state that, because of how the body metabolizes the THC molecule, the driver can submit evidence in court that he or she was not impaired at the time they were charged with marijuana DUI.

As more states are looking to legalize some form of marijuana consumption, the White House has officially recommended that all states pass per se zero tolerance marijuana DUI laws, like Colorado’s measure.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with DUI Charges

If you face DUI charges, whether it is your first charge, or felony DUI, you could feel alone and afraid. Just because you have received DUI charges does not automatically mean that you are guilty. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have helped people who face DUI charges since 1996. We offer free, confidential consultations so you can discuss the facts of your case with impunity. Contact us for help today. 803.252.4800



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