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Washington's Pot Impaired Driving Level: Innovative or Arbitrary?

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | Dec 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

Washington is Struggling with New DUI Marijuana Laws

For the most part, Washington seems to be doing everything right as the state inches closer to the day when marijuana can be consumed legally by its residents.

Since the voters approved this change in November of last year, officials have been crafting laws and regulations relating to the legalization of recreational pot.

One of these laws was an objective standard for impaired driving while under the influence of pot: 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood equivalent.

But now, that 5 ng benchmark is coming under fire. A column published this week in Business Insider documents the similar transformation in Colorado, which also legalized marijuana recently. Some pot advocates argue that the 5 ng standard, which has also been adopted in Colorado, is not based on any established science. While it's widely accepted that marijuana use can affect the motor skills and cognition that requires a person to safely operate a motor vehicle, even the federal government admits that there's no evidence to indicate that 5 ng of THC in the blood is linked to a marked increase in driver impairment - and that many pot users will metabolize the drug differently, thus rendering the benchmark fairly useless.

These advocates make a good point. But it can also be argued that the .08% blood alcohol standard doesn't in and of itself determine precisely when a person is too drunk to drive. After all, alcohol, like marijuana, is metabolized at differing rates by different people.

Pot advocates might want to take into account the alternative which has been embraced by many other states. Oklahoma, Illinois, Arizona, and others maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward marijuana - meaning that even trace amounts of the drug (even its non-psychoactive components) in the bloodstream can be enough to sustain an impaired driving charge. And other states base these types of offenses on observed behavior by police - which can be highly subjective.

The bottom line? The 5 ng standard may not be perfect (or even scientifically sound), but all things considered, it's not a bad compromise?

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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