Marijuana DUI Law Fails to Pass California State Legislature
A proposed law that would lead to marijuana DUI conviction based on trace amounts of THC in the blood failed to pass California’s state legislature.
The law, AB 2500, was proposed by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, and would have led to DUI convictions based on any THC metabolites found in the suspect’s blood stream. A similar piece of legislation was struck down in Arizona at the end of April, based on the state’s medical marijuana laws.
THC metabolites can remain in the blood stream for up to 21 days after a person has consumed the drug, according to medical marijuana advocates. One marijuana DUI law in Colorado suggested that a driver might be intoxicated if they are found to have 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood.
The California marijuana DUI bill was defeated in the Assembly Public Safety committee 4-2. The proposed law also targeted intoxicated driving from cocaine, meth, heroin, morphine and other drugs.
Statistically, traffic accidents in the state have plummeted while use of medical marijuana has gone up. “According to data from NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Recording System (FARS), the number of fatal highway accidents in California declined from 3,148 to 2,632 between 1999 and 2012.”
“A disproportionate number of DUI fatalities are caused by drivers previously convicted of an alcohol-related motor vehicle offense. Specifically, in California, more than one-fourth of all DUI convictions are repeat offenders,” writes Katherine Watkins, a natural scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a board-certified practicing psychiatrist.
Defining marijuana DUI is difficult because of the metabolites of THC, and many states rely on “common sense” of police officers, or by using a field sobriety test.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released a statement about California’s proposed marijuana DUI law, saying, “Even while marijuana usage has been increasing over the past decade, accident rates and DUI arrests in California have been declining. Some experts speculate that this may be because drivers are substituting marijuana for alcohol. In any case, the evidence seems clear that marijuana isn’t causing an epidemic of accidents.”
“It is just as illegal to drive with the metabolite of marijuana in your system as it is to drive with heroin in your system or PCP in your system. It doesn’t matter what it is and the metabolite is inactive. It doesn’t make you high. It doesn’t impair you in any matter. You could have that metabolite for up to about 42 days,” said traffic attorney James Nesci, regarding the Arizona law.
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