Legislation needed for driving while under influence of pot

By Steve King

It is not surprising to see and hear the outrage from the Colorado pot cartel and its many customers upon hearing the news that my office is again running legislation addressing those driving under the influence of drugs in our state.

What is surprising is the naiveté of the industry thinking that the defeat of similar per se legislation last session would somehow silence the issue.

What needs to be focused on by the industry is the fact that Colorado voters, because of their compassion for the pain of fellow citizens, gave permission for some to use marijuana. They never said that partying, getting behind the wheel and killing people should be accepted as the collateral damage of their decision.

Last year, the illusion used to protect their turf and profit margin was to say there was no science to back up such a law. Sadly, the science is written in the blood of the innocent victims of people driving under the influence of drugs.

The fact is that marijuana users driving motor vehicles on the highways and byways of Colorado while under the influence of Delta-9 THC are a clear and present danger to the innocent traveling public of our state.

Studies on the effects of Delta-9 THC indicate that if a driver has greater than 1 nanograms per millileter of blood, he or she is impaired. In fact, if a driver has between 2 and 5 nanograms per millileter in their system, even if they are a chronic user, they are six to seven times more likely to crash than a sober driver. While chronic users can compensate for some effects, they can never fully compensate for all effects of THC while driving.

The number of marijuana-impaired drivers who caused fatal crashes has more than doubled, from 2.9 percent to 7 percent, between 2006 and 2010. In 53 percent of fatal crashes caused by an impaired driver, the driver tested positive for cannabis.

Steven Ryan was convicted of DUI vehicular homicide for the 2010 deaths of a mother and her two-week old child in Aurora. Ryan had 4 nanograms of Delta-9 THC and no other substances in his system.

Phillip Cuny was convicted in Greeley in 2006 for vehicular assault for hitting two young women and dragging one of them about 50 feet, permanently paralyzing and disabling her. He had 4 nanograms of Delta-9 and no other substances in his system.

John Spence was convicted of reckless vehicular homicide (found not guilty of DUI vehicular homicide and DUI) for a 2009 homicide in Adams County. Spence had 5 nanograms of Delta-9 and no other substances in his system.

The marijuana cartel should bring its best argument that there is no science to back up the need for this law, and they can make it to the family members of the innocent victims to see if it stands up to the facts.

There are already 14 states with some form of a DUI per se law for marijuana. Thirteen of those states have a zero tolerance per se law. Two of the 14 only have a zero tolerance per se for people under 21. Two other states, Nevada and Ohio, have a per se law set at 2 nanograms of Delta-9 THC in whole blood (not plasma).

The smoke and mirrors used by the pot cartel to put citizens at risk for another year in 2011 will not stand as the focus of the Legislature in 2012. I predict that with the realization of the lives at risk from this true public safety threat, the Colorado Senate will pass this legislation unanimously.

Sen. Steve King represents Mesa County and a portion of Garfield County in the state Legislature. His bill to establish a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee Monday.


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