Debate in Colorado over driving while high proposal

Colorado group studying issue split about endorsing a measurement

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— The number of drivers caught behind the wheel after using marijuana this year in Colorado is on pace to eclipse last year’s total, adding fuel to cannabis critics’ fears that the state is facing a growing problem of stoned driving.

But it is deeply in doubt whether the legislature next year will reconsider one proposal addressing the issue: creating a measurement by which drivers would be presumed too stoned to drive, which would make it easier for prosecutors to punish those who take the wheel while high.

A state Department of Public Safety working group that is studying the issue deadlocked over endorsing such an approach. One of the proposal’s legislative sponsors from last session said he doesn’t see any way it would pass after being rejected in the state Senate earlier this year.

“I think we need a presumptive limit in the state of Colorado, absolutely,” said state Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs. “But I don’t think our current political climate is going to allow us to get there.”

The ultimate decision of whether to re-introduce a bill creating a “per se” limit of the amount of active THC drivers could have in their systems is still a ways off. THC is marijuana’s psychoactive chemical. On Wednesday, a study group will present its research to a subcommittee of the state’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. The subcommittee will decide whether to recommend creating a limit to the full commission, which would then decide whether to ask lawmakers to carry a bill.

Significantly, the study group split sharply over whether a limit is appropriate.

“There was considerable doubt whether there is enough science to set a per se limit for all people,” said Sean McAllister, a medical-marijuana attorney who is part of the study group and who doesn’t support a limit at this time.

Figures on motorists suspected of driving stoned hint at the debate. Last year, the state health department lab screened nearly 2,600 blood samples for THC, with about 1,600 of those coming back positive. Of the positive samples, about 500 had levels higher than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood — the amount that lawmakers earlier this year proposed as the per se limit.

So far this year, the state has tested more than 2,200 samples, with about 1,000 positives and another 360 presumed positive but awaiting the required second confirmation. About 250 have registered above 5 ng/ml.

Meanwhile, medical-marijuana advocates like McAllister say some research suggests certain drivers who test above 5 ng/ml still can qualify as sober. And McAllister questioned the need for a per se limit — which eases the burden on prosecutors to prove impairment. He said prosecutors already have roughly a 90 percent success rate winning convictions when stoned-driving cases go to trial.

Other statistics cloud the issue. In 2010, 32 drivers who tested positive for marijuana were involved in fatal accidents, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation — though it is unknown whether those drivers were at fault in the accident or were stoned enough to be impaired. In 2009, when fewer drivers total tested positive for pot, 37 drivers in fatal accidents were THC-positive. In 2008, the number was 31.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

YVB, Note that only half tested positive for THC, a drug which lingers for days, if not weeks.

What I find more interesting is that this year there have been 2,200 samples of which 250 have tested above the proposed presumption limit of 5 mg. That is only 1 of 9. So 8 of 9 arrests that led to testing were below the presumptive limit.

I have no idea why the pro mmj people oppose a presumptive limit. When 8 of 9 would be cleared by a presumptive limit and 9 of 10 are being convicted without a presumptive limit then it would appear that somewhere around 1750 people a year are being convicted that would be cleared if there was a presumptive limit.

Who cares if there might be some people that drive fine with more than 5 mg THC? Right now lots of people are being convicted for driving with less than 5 mg THC. Accept the 5 mg THC threshold. Same argument can be made about alcohol - that there might be some people that are not seriously impaired when at the legal limit, but no one cares because the legal limit is the point which enough people are impaired enough that no one should drive at that level of alcohol. Neither society or the legal system is going to spend the time to determine for each person what is the blood level that causes an unacceptable level of impairment.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

So what are the fatality figures for the straight populace? These numbers suggest that, statistically, it's far safer to drive stoned.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

450-550 or so traffic deaths a year in Colorado. Given that in polls say about 5% of population used mj in the past month then as a simple percentage of the population then about 20-25 with detected THC should be expected based upon pure chance if THC had no effect. Since the actual numbers ranged from 31-37 then it statistically likely that being positive for THC does indicate a higher risk.

BUT, younger people are more likely to use mj and thus test positive for THC than older people/drivers AND younger drivers have a higher fatality rate so the increased number of THC in fatal accidents could just be reflecting the higher fatality rate among younger drivers.

Regardless, the data absolutely does not suggest it is safer to drive stone.

In contrast, alcohol is blamed as a contributing factor in 40% of traffic fatalities. So alcohol is an order of magnitude more of a risk factor than mj.

Also, note that THC linked fatalities or THC above 5 mg do not show either any great change with the proliferation of MMJ dispensaries. Thus, the statistics suggest that there has been no great increase in the use of MJ due to dispensaries.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

I left that in the right hands -- thanks for the obfuscation, Scott!! We certainly play fast and loose with the numbers, don't we?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

obfuscation means obscuring, hiding.

My posts were intended to explain and clarify, not as obfuscation.

So I am not sure if your comment is a sarcastic response or if you misused a word.

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freerider 2 years, 7 months ago

Cell phones , Text messaging , messing with your I-pod , fumbling a lit cigarette , alcohol , pharmaceuticals are all far worse than stoned drivers , where's the passion to rid the world of those things ,

Nope just gotta keep on protecting cartel , Dea , CIA drug profits

I just read an interesting article that illegal drugs are now tied for second place with the sale of weapons & guns as a worldwide commodity ...with oil as first place ...

Follow the money people ,

Another interesting article about how the marines have been ordered to protect poppy fields in Afghanistan and how the biggest heroin dealer on the planet has been on the payroll of the CIA for the last ten years , It's the president of Afghanistan's brother ..

Funny how people think we are there because of terrorist's...I don't know about anybody else but if my son or daughter was in Afghanistan protecting the heroin trade by order of the commanding general and Obama I would be pissed off

Wait a second that does piss me off

here's the link kids

the only way to get rid of this mess is to legalize all drugs and provide treatment to addicts

Ron Paul 2012

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/12707

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freerider 2 years, 7 months ago

Same thing happened in NAM , the CIA bought heroin with cash and rifles from the NVC

I remember when that was going down , I had friends involved in it , I was living in Boulder at that time , that stuff was everywhere

Same thing's going on in Afghanistan ... the Taliban [ our enemies ] used to be friends with them gave them guns to kill Russians

Well basically we are getting our asses kicked with US made guns same a s NAM , and paying for it all by buying heroin from the enemy

Is it just me or does anybody else see a problem here ??

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freerider 2 years, 7 months ago

Maybe LISA Watts or DR. Victory would like to explain to me why the US government is paying marines to protect the heroin trade in Afghanistan and they are hell bent on keeping marijuana illegal

Come on girls don't shy and let us all know why you are cheer-leading for the Drug cartels

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Well, technically this is about mj and mmj, not about opium poppies.

And for the mmj debate this by presenting actual data indicating no explosion in number of people driving while impaired (5 mg) and no explosion in number of traffic fatalities in which mj was implicated then it completely refutes the claims of the anti-mmj folks that there has been a great change in bad things due to mmj.

This sort of result is also very similar to what the large health surveys show regarding mj. Those studies simply look at the lifestyles and health of large numbers of people and look for things that appear to be statistically linked. And MJ comes out as a very minor risk factor. It does not appear to be some great life preserver, but neither as some awful killer like tobacco or alcohol.

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freerider 2 years, 7 months ago

Scott

this is about the drug war and what a farce it is

looks like you got sucked into the numbers BS

lets see now 5 mgs or lets make it 6 mgs wait wait let's make it 5.5 mgs

no wait lets have another Government agency do a report wait how about 2 agency reports wait the HWY patrol should have a report wait , send it to the supreme court wait , Garrett Wiggins should do a report , wait Lisa watts should do a report , hey I should do a report

Ron PAUL 2012

END THE DRUG WAR END THE FED END THE IRS END THE STUPIDITY

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

freerider, So current situation of 90% being convicted when only 11% were found to be above the proposed presumptive limit is acceptable to you? You refuse to accept a solution that fixes 90% of the problem? It is truly all or nothing for you, isn't it?

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1999 2 years, 7 months ago

I think having a set in stone limit would reduce the number of "gee they looked high and had dancing bears on their back window..... so I arrested them" arrests.

i think this is a good thing for MJ and the MMJ industry.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

I would have to agree that any objective standard is better than none at all, even given inherent deficiencies. Numbers still lie, people still believe, and now I must refrain from further comment.

Ciao!!

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

So is there a home-test kit available? Should I ever drive again, I'd sure hate to endanger the public.

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mtntrekker 2 years, 7 months ago

Of course we need a limit on how much you can toke and drive. DUI stands for driving under the influence. Under the influence of alcohol, under the influence of drugs (cocaine, painkillers, etc.), under the influence of MJ. I thought MJ was still illegal unless you have an MMJ card. Mythbusters did a few shows on the limits of drinking and driving. They should do one with MJ. It would be a fun test to find those limits.

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jk 2 years, 7 months ago

mtntrekker, they could never do a show like that since someone under the influence of mj would never drive aggresively enough to comply with the tests.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Oh I dunno, Nixon's own commission found that stoned subjects, had at least as good, if not BETTER, motor response than the straight control group -- and I must say, my unofficial tests tend to support that finding. ; -)

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jk 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't think driving a bike counts rhys. haha

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wzdeer 2 years, 7 months ago

Watch the BBC show titled "should I smoke dope". There are some very interesting tests and studies done on getting high and driving. Of course, those of you who smoke pot, will probably disagree with the test......knowing your track record and opinions on any mmj articals in the Stmbt pilot. But it is very interesting.....and by the way I am not against smoking pot or mmj....I am pro legalization. I'm also realistic:)

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Sweet. I just want to be the Crash Test Dummy, the Worst Case Scenario, the one who determines what concentration level is not acceptable. They don't call me the Highway Star for nuthin'. (Richie Blackmore helped.) Oh the stories I could tell. They would end up REVERSING the laws, and making it mandatory. Bring on the cones. And I love you guys!!

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

But I've got some friends out in the country, ex-Florida boys, can handle a wheel too, seemingly unencumbered by cerebral treats as well. Oh the fun. This is all BS.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, Steve, didn't mean to get 'em looking your way, out 33, wasn't it?

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Jeff Kibler 2 years, 7 months ago

They'll still cite you for DWI whether riding or driving a bike under the influence.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

Yeah I've heard that, but I've never seen it, barring an accident, and usually not even then. Poor biker, dumb s**t. If you can't ride, you shore shouldn't drive.

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Jeff Kibler 2 years, 7 months ago

Front Page:

"Videos

Future aviators

The Wild West Air Fest includes activities to get kids interesting in aviation."

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freerider 2 years, 7 months ago

Scott

I'll take a driving skill test anytime while I'm high , and pass with flying colors

I've been scuba diving stoned Heli skiing stoned Extreme skiing stoned windsurfed 20-30 foot waves stoned raced motorcycles stoned Just about any activity you can think of stoned Better sex while high

It's my right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

wait is it 5mgs or 6 mgs is safe , damn my memory is slipping I better get high and have sex now

gotta go, have fun with your numbers

Our Government regulations regarding marijuana are pathetic

I'm for complete legalization without restrictions

40 year toker and going strong bra , my friends that went with alcohol are all dead

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Jeff Kibler 2 years, 7 months ago

free,

I'm all in favor of the legalization, taxation, regulation and purification of MJ.

Why don't you see if you can lay off the chronic for a few months and get back to me.

I've been there, bra, and no offense, but given some of your grandiose comments, you need to step back and clear your head.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Freerider, And according to the crime statistics, if you get pulled over and they detect mj then you will be convicted of duid 90% of the time even if those people were under the proposed presumptive 5 mg THC levels 88% of the time.

Go ahead and tell you stories of doing stuff stoned to the DA and judge and see how that works for you. It certainly has not been working for 88% of your compatriots.

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rhys jones 2 years, 7 months ago

free -- I'm on your side, bro'. All pot does is enhance, not distort. There is no activity, sport, or game I would hesitate to do stoned. It enhances everything. Especially the abstract thought necessary to program computers, to take an idea and make something solid out of it. From Steamboat's Breakaway packages down, my stoned footprints remain in software all over this town. Pot has assisted in finding MANY bugs, and creating MANY solutions to unique problems. When involved in this process, it really matters not where my head and body are, as the thoughts are in space and theory, until I snag 'em and get them in code. I look over at Emerald, and it barely registers. My space ship goes where no man has, all the time, right from this chair. Pot makes this, if not possible, at least enjoyable.

Unfortunately this medieval society still lumps DUI(D) (pot) with DUI's of all types, for sentencing, licensing, all that rot. Which is why I ate so many biscuits and gravy last time around, and I bicycle still, a little '03 affair where the cop was ready to let me go, until his eagle eye spotted an empty dugout I never used but stupidly left in plain sight -- well, the door pocket, which happened to be open, me tending to a boiling radiator. I put on 35 lbs subsequently, at RCSO, so God must have wanted it that way. Plus I learned a big fat TCP/IP book, teaching me how the Internet works and reviving my dormant endeavor, so I guess it wasn't all bad. That was for pot.

About 40 years ago, we thought it'd finally be fully legal in about 40 years, once the ruling redneck generation died off. I'd say it's about time.

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