Colorado is rolling out a major ad campaign to remind citizens that while recreational marijuana is legal, they’re still not permitted to smoke and drive. The state’s Department of Transportation released three new ads that will begin airing on TV Monday, all carrying the tagline “Drive High, Get A DUI.” The ads amusingly show people trying to complete simple tasks while stoned, in an effort to point out that someone who is too high to set up a television shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.
According to a Colorado law passed in May of 2013, any driver found to have at least 5 nanograms of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, per milliliter of blood can be indicted with a DUI. Pro-marijuana protesters have expressed frustration with the law because many experts say there is no proof showing that 5 nanograms per milliliter shows that someone is impaired. To implement the law, Colorado has trained 200 drug-recognition officers, who are looking for inflamed pupils and small body shakes in drivers alleged of being under the influence of marijuana.
It’s never been legal to drive while you’re impaired by any drug in Colorado, but this is the first time there’s a belief that a specific level of THC in your blood means you’re high. Since the debated new limits approved, Denver criminal defense attorney Sean McAllister told me he’s seen an uptick in marijuana-related driving arrests. Medical pot users also fear getting stopped now since they may have THC levels beyond the legal limit but don’t feel too high to drive.
Every state in the US has a legal driving limit for blood alcohol levels along with some type of law regulating drug use and driving. These laws are recognized as DUID laws – which stand for driving under the influence of drugs. The concept behind these laws is that being high on the road may be hazardous.
While Colorado just legalized recreational pot in November of 2012, medical marijuana has been legal there since 2000, and medical-marijuana protestors recoiled at a driving limit for pot in the state when the measure was previously conquered. The Denver Post reported that before the Colorado DUID bill failed in May 2012, medical marijuana protestors claimed that 5 nanograms was too low and that efficiently sober people would end up getting arrested.
Colorado’s new law lets drivers try to submit proof in court showing they weren’t impaired even though their THC blood levels were above the legal limit. That standard is known as “permissive inference.” But you’d have to have a good lawyer to get out of a DUID with 5 nanograms in your blood, even if you were fine to drive. Marijuana supporters say there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to connect certain THC levels to impaired driving, even though many states have secured a precise number to impairment. For now, medical users who might have too much THC in their blood should possibly try to be low-key on the road or stay home and not drive at all. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.