Aurora Sentinel blasts lawmakers over THC limit

The Aurora Sentinel today editorialized against the back-again legislation that would set a legal limit for THC in the blood, beyond which a driver is considered impaired.

The Sentinel makes the point that there are already laws that make it illegal to drive while impaired by any drug, and makes the further point that marijuana could become the only legal medicine that has an established limit.

From The Sentinel:

…the science behind what (Rep. Claire) Levy is trying to do is at best murky and most likely irrelevant to what she and her supporters are trying to accomplish: keeping people stoned out of their brains from getting behind the wheel of a car.

What science does know about marijuana is that is has a much more varied effect on people than does alcohol. And the “intoxicating” effect itself is unlike that of alcohol. More to the point, there absolutely is no reliable research making it clear that the 5 ng/ml limit is anything but arbitrary and meaningless.

Just as worrisome, marijuana isn’t metabolized in the same way alcohol is. It’s unclear whether someone legally and responsibly using medical marijuana could meet or exceed this blood-level threshold without actually being intoxicated. Given the seriousness of the offense, and the consequences of a DUI conviction, all this guesswork and good faith just isn’t good enough.

Critics have also rightfully pointed out that this is medication the state is dealing with, it would be ground-breaking to set blood-level limits on a drug, when much more powerful and intoxicating drugs such as Demerol, Vicodin and Valium have no set limits.

And in the end, the measure is really unneeded at this point. Colorado already makes it illegal to drive impaired under the influence of any drug or substance, and there are a bevy of laws making it illegal to drive in a reckless or careless manner.

Lawmakers must either wait for credible research to allow for blood-level limits, or find a more scientific way to determine intoxication, allow HB 1261 to pursue this issue but not regulate prematurely.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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