UPDATED: Driving stoned bill back before Colorado Legislature

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— It's been a long, strange trip for marijuana and driving limits in Colorado. But a bill up for its first hearing Tuesday could clear the state's cloud of confusion over determining whether someone is too stoned to drive.

The bill before a House committee would set a blood-level limit for marijuana similar to existing blood-alcohol standards. It's already illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, but sponsors say a numerical blood limit is needed now that Colorado is one of only two states that allow adults over 21 to use pot.

But similar driving-high proposals have failed three times in Colorado because of concerns that blood tests aren't a fair way to tell whether someone is too high to get behind the wheel. Marijuana activists who thronged the Capitol argued that blood THC limits don't accurately indicate impairment, and that Colorado should stick with its current reliance of officer observation that someone is stoned.

Other driving-high bills have failed not because of marijuana activists but because of unrelated legislative hurly-burly. One attempt failed because lawmakers ran out of time to debate it. Another failed when a single former senator who supported the driving limit was away on vacation.

The pot-legalization measure approved by voters last year did not address a driving limit. The version approved by Washington voters said drivers are too stoned if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

That 5 nanogram standard is in Colorado's proposal. Intense opposition is expected again. A separate marijuana regulation task force has already heard an earful from people who find a THC driving limit unnecessary.

"Our highways are moving along like they did before cannabis became legal," Centennial resident Steve MacGregor told regulators. "The world has not come a stop."

Lawmakers seem likely to approve the THC standard this year. The bill has bipartisan sponsors and the support of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Still, another unexpected failure is possible. House Republican Leader Mark Waller, one of the sponsors of this year's stoned-driving bill, pointed out that while he's confident it will pass, he was confident in previous years, too.

Find House Bill 1114 online.

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