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Colorado: Lawmakers Pass Presumptive Legal Standard For Cannabis-Induced Impairment

In the final hours of this year’s legislative session, lawmakers approved controversial legislation, House Bill 1325, to impose a legal presumption of cannabis-induced impairment.

Lawmakers had already struck down this language twice this year before agreeing to enact HB 1325 on the second-to-last day of the 2013 legislative session.

The measure now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

House Bill 1325 states that in instances where THC is identified in a driver’s blood in quantities of 5ng/ml or higher, “such fact gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence. Unlike previous versions of this proposal, the measure does not set a per se standard, which means that a defendant is permitted to present evidence at trial rebutting the inference that they were impaired by marijuana.

Five states impose per se thresholds for cannabinoids: Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Montana (5ng/ml, effective October 1, 2013), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml). Ten additional states impose zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites.

NORML believes that it is inadvisable to infer behavior impairment on blood/cannabinoid levels alone — a position we outline in the following papers:

Cannabis and psychomotor performance: A rational review of the evidence and implications for public policy

Imposing Per Se Limits For Cannabis: Practical Limitations and Concerns

Cannabis and Driving: A Scientific and Rational Review

Such caution is also expressed by the US National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration here:

“It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

For further information on this issue, please visit the NORML Library here.


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