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Marijuana DUI laws based on 'mishmash' of data

Recreational marijuana use became legal in Colorado on January 1, and with that major law change has come many questions about driving under the influence of marijuana.

Under Colorado law, it is possible to be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana. Technically, it is illegal to drive with more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, which can also be described as five parts per billion.

However, there is plenty of debate over whether this is the correct limit, or if measuring THC from blood or urine samples is an effective way of determining if a driver is impaired in the first place.

Some experts even believe that limited resources would be better spent discouraging people from drunk driving instead of driving stoned.

As reported in a recent New York Times article, the debate is fueled by scientific data that has suggested the following:

  • Marijuana affects people differently.
  • Field sobriety tests do not work as well on stoned drivers compared to drunk drivers.
  • Driving stoned appears to be less dangerous that driving drunk.
  • Driving stoned results in different deficits than driving drunk.

Even a senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that her organization is trying to “put out the science and have it used for evidence-based drug policy” but so far the findings have been a “mishmash."

While it is widely accepted that driving with any level of THC in the bloodstream does increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident, it extremely difficult to determine a point at which a driver who is using marijuana legally becomes a risk.

For all of these reasons, it’s important to stand up for yourself when charged with a marijuana DUI in Colorado. As you can see, the “mishmash” of scientific data on the issue gives you a greater opportunity to argue that you were not, in fact, driving impaired.

Source: New York Times, “Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana,” Maggie Koerth-Baker, Feb. 17, 2014

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