DENVER – A Colorado lawmaker pushing for a marijuana blood-level limit for drivers said Friday he’s arguing for a fourth time because lives are at stake.
The bill sponsored by Mesa County Republican Sen. Steve King would make Colorado the third state in the country to adopt a drivers’ blood standard for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The Transportation Legislation Review committee voted 10-6 Friday to introduce the bill in January.
Lawmakers have previously rejected the measure three times, including during a special session earlier this year when it failed in the state Senate on a 17-17 vote.
“People are dying on our highways and byways as a result of people driving under the influence of THC, just like with alcohol 20 years ago,” King said.
The proposal would limit drivers to 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
Opponents worry medical marijuana users will be wrongly convicted of driving under the influence. They argue some medical marijuana users can have high THC blood level even when the driver is not impaired, and that the amount stays in their system long after they’ve used the drug.
“We risk convicting people of an impaired driving infraction when they’re not actually impaired,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. “That is an injustice that is a major problem.”
Elliott said opposition to the bill would decrease if the nanogram-level was increased to 10, where “there’s more guarantee that the person is actually impaired.”
Colorado is among 16 states that allow medical-marijuana use.
Nevada, which allows medical marijuana, and Ohio have a 2-nanogram THC limit for driving. Pennsylvania has a 5-nanogram limit, but that’s a state Health Department guideline, which can be introduced in driving violation cases.
Colorado law enforcement and the National Highway Safety Administration say there has been an uptick in drivers in fatal accidents testing positive for marijuana use.
Some marijuana activists argue pot-related crash data is incomplete and shouldn’t be used to impose a blood-level limit. They say officer observations, not blood levels, are better for showing a driver is impaired.
King said he would continue to sponsor the bill until it passes.
“I think lives are stake if I don’t,” he said.