Colorado's (un)scientific THC DUI limit bill is expected to clear the House today upon its second reading of the day. The bill is being voted upon right now after passing through its last stop in legislative committee earlier.
The House Appropriations Committee approved SB 117 with a vote of 9-4 - and with the House session ending tomorrow, the bill is sure to be fast-tracked through. If approved today, the bill would get a third reading tomorrow; bills cannot receive second and third readings on the same day - so if the second reading is not held today, the bill dies.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML),"lawmakers initially rejected SB 117 on a voice vote, only to pass the measure later upon reconsideration." That reconsideration only yielded an 18-17 victory in the May 1 vote.
If passed, SB 117 would redefine "DUI per se" to include driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in one's system.
"Senate Bill 117 is inappropriate," says NORML, "because THC levels in blood are often inconsistent predictors of behavioral impairment, particularly in daily users (such as many of those in Colorado's patient community) who may possess residual levels of THC in their blood for periods of time far exceeding any reasonable period of psychomotor impairment."
In other words, the THC remains in your blood longer than any possible impairment to motor skills. This was demonstrated by the Westword's William Breathes, who had a fifteen hour gap and a night of sleep inbetween smoking and having blood drawn. The result? Breathes was almost three times the 5 ng/mL limit - and sober.
Proponents of SB 117 argue that with the rise in marijuana popularity and its availability in Colorado, the potential for car accident fatalities is on the rise. "But even as marijuana use -- and society's acceptance of it -- grows every year," says Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town, "highway fatalities are diminishing."
Recently, an auto insurance quote provider even came out in defense of marijuana users behind the wheel.
Opponents of SB 117 argue that per se DUI limits are too restrictive and not based on scientifically-consistent impairment. Most states also already establish laws for impaired driving with field sobriety tests, as well as blood tests. NORML reports that "over the past four years, Colorado prosecutors have over a 90 percent conviction rate when prosecuting DUI offenses." For this reason, there is no need to "lower the state's burden of proof in these cases."