Up in smoke, again

It’s disappointing and a bit surprising that Sen. Steve King’s legislation to establish a baseline legal limit to define driving under the influence of marijuana was killed in the special session of the Colorado Legislature this week.

After all, the bill passed the House early in the week, and it was in the House that it failed during the regular session. Additionally, it passed the Senate during the regular session, but fell in a 17-17 tie during the special session. One of the senators who earlier voted for the measure was out of town and unable to vote on it Tuesday.

However, the special session has proved to be anything but special, and not a good place to get any legislation passed.

House Speaker Frank McNulty made sure that the civil unions bill — the primary reason for which Gov. John Hickenlooper called the special session — never even made it out of committee. Of 11 bills introduced in the special session, only three were passed, the most important of which authorized funding for water projects around the state.

King, the Grand Junction Republican and former police officer, has tried repeatedly to win passage of the marijuana DUI bill, which would establish a minimum amount of THC — the chemical in marijuana that makes people high — before one could be guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Critics of the bill said THC lingers longer in the bloodstream than alcohol, and that not all users are affected at the same level. But the latter argument is true of alcohol as well. And, as Rick Wagner noted on these pages a week ago, the THC level wouldn’t be the only requirement for a DUI conviction if King’s bill had passed. Defendants would have several avenues to challenge an arrest.

We still believe some legal definition of driving under the influence of marijuana is needed, and King is on the right track to bring legislation back to the Capitol each year.


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