A bill that would have made driving with 5 nanograms of THC or higher in a person’s bloodstream a DUI per se was amended Monday after testimony indicated many individuals could function at a 20 nanogram level.The bill asks now for a study on what level of THC is enough to call someone impaired. The bill was voted out of committee where it faces its next challenge in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
With the smell of marijuana noticeably in the air in the Old Supreme Court Chamber Monday afternoon and a relatively sparse turnout for a committee hearing on medical marijuana, those who did show up mattered. After hearing testimony from a number of physicians and medical marijuana users who suggested the science was simply not there on what nanogram level a person became impaired at, the Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment that essentially struck the DUI per se portion of the bill and called instead for further study on the topic.
The mixed testimony of doctors, a blood test from Westword marijuana reviewer “William Breathes” and a report of studies sent to members of the committee led legislators to vote 6-4 for the amendment calling for further study.
“We all know at some level that people become impaired,” Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said. “We may not know what that number is.”
Asked if there was a level where anybody would be considered impaired, Paul Bregman, a pro-medical marijuana doctor, said that 25 nanograms seemed like close to an appropriate number. “I have read where people walk around with 40 nanograms in their blood.”
Still, opponents of the amendment, including law enforcement and the attorney general’s office, provided testimony that not only was 5 nanograms right for Colorado, it could very well be too low a figure.
An attorney who has both defended and prosecuted medical marijuana cases told the committee that 5 nanograms of THC has been found to be similar to a .1 blood alcohol content.
Given that Republicans were less than enthusiastic with the change–Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction voiced his concern the bill was a study at the risk of lives– the bill could see the amendment stripped and the nanogram limit reinserted as it makes its way through the Senate and back to the Republican controlled House where the bill originated.
“I don’t feel that I have enough consistent scientific information to know that I’m picking the right number,” Carroll said, according to the Denver Post.