April 2, 2013
DENVER—The House of Representatives gave initial approval to House Bill 1114 today, which establishes limits for people driving under the influence of marijuana. The bipartisan measure is sponsored by House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, and state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. This is the third consecutive year Waller has introduced legislation that would create limits for Coloradans who drive under the influence of marijuana.
“The time to get this bill passed is now,” Waller said. “This is a critical tool law enforcement needs to ensure the safety of our roads.”
Similar to blood alcohol limits for drunk drivers, under HB 1114 a driver in Colorado will be considered under the influence of marijuana if five or more nanograms of delta-9-THC is present in a milliliter of whole blood. Delta-9-THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that renders a driver impaired after consumption.
Unlike limits on blood alcohol content, however, a driver who reaches the five nanogram limit can argue in court that he or she is unimpaired at five nanograms because of their tolerance, size or other contributing factor. This “permissive inference” helps address the concerns of medical marijuana users who are chronically above five nanograms but function as if they were sober.
In 2011 alone, 13 percent of deadly crashes in Colorado involved marijuana. The number of marijuana users in Colorado is also expected to increase after voters legalized the recreational use of cannabis last November. As such, lawmakers in Colorado have felt a growing sense of urgency to create a standard that determines when a person may be impaired by the use of marijuana.
House Bill 1114 must pass a final recorded vote in the House before it can be considered in the Senate.