Long before voters in Washington and Colorado approved the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, anti-legalization groups voiced their fears that legalizing cannabis would lead to a drastic increase in automobile accidents and fatalities due to the increase of stoned drivers that would be taking to the highways.
Even though these fears did not become reality, policy makers in both states established a threshold for 'drugged driving' DUIs at five nanograms of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood. A recent article analyzing Colorado law enforcement data highlights the practical implications of this threshold.
Law enforcement officers in La Plata, Montezuma and Archuleta counties in Southwest Colorado have issued a very low number of marijuana-only DUIs in the last year. Officers in La Plata County, home to the city of Durango, which contains 6 retail marijuana shops and 7 dispensaries, only issued 2 marijuana-only citations last year.
When faced with a driver who may be under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, Colorado State Patrol officers will charge the driver with the alcohol-related offense. The reason? A spokesperson for the Patrol stated that the alcohol level was "a qualitative level in statute that's clear" and admitted that with a driver under the influence of marijuana, "it's certainly harder to tell than it is with alcohol."
Advocates have voiced concerns with the 5 nanogram threshold. Marijuana is metabolized by the body in a much different manner than alcohol, and heavy users can have a high blood concentration for a time period extending far beyond the actual effects of consumption.
As studies continue to be published that demonstrate the legalization of marijuana is not harming the general public on the roadways, hopefully the long-standing marijuana myths and misinformation will begin to recede, and our policymakers can make statutes that are effective, not overly punitive.
If you have been charged under Washington's current 5 nanogram marijuana threshold in Seattle or anywhere in King, Pierce, or Snohomish counties, you need an experienced criminal attorney to protect your rights. Attorney Kevin Trombold has decades of experience representing those charged with drug offenses. Do not hesitate to contact him today for a free consultation at 206-971-0067.