Receiving a DUI or DWAI for drugged driving is not a new concept. Each state has laws discouraging people from using motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol, medication or illegal drugs. Colorado is no different.
Colorado, however, finds itself in a unique position about drug related DUI/DWAI charges. As only one of two states with legal marijuana, the Centennial State needed to establish a blood level limit of active THC. The limit was needed to help police determine if an person is “too stoned to drive.”
To determine if a motorist is under the influence, the limit for Delta 9- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound in marijuana, was set at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. Five nanograms or higher results in a marijuana related DUI charge and below 5 nanograms can result in a DWAI charge.
Five nanograms per milliliter is not a large amount by any stretch of the imagination. A nanogram is equal to 1 billionth of a gram. To illustrate just how small that is, consider this: a paperclip weighs one gram. Slice that paperclip into one billion equal pieces. Each slice is equal to one nanogram- Colorado has deemed five nanograms to be the legal limit per milliliter of blood. A milliliter being equal to 20 drops of liquid. That wouldn’t be enough to fill your table spoon half way.
There are four different types of tests used to detect the use of marijuana, but only a blood or saliva swab detect active Delta 9 – THC. Urine and hair drug tests only detect the byproducts left by your body breaking down THC. This limits law enforcement’s testing options to a saliva or blood test. A blood test is the most common marijuana drug test Colorado police use.
The saliva test allegedly detects the THC level and the recency of marijuana use. Yet saliva testing isn’t being widely used, leaving the blood draw as the most common test. Blood testing provides police with accurate THC levels, but there is where the controversy lies in this matter.
Opponents say the law is unfair to habitual users and those with medical marijuana cards. Since THC stays in the body longer, habitual users are in constant violation of current marijuana DUI laws. Denver area pot critic “William Breathes,” wrote how long marijuana stayed in his system. Breathes, a self-admitted daily user of marijuana, abstained from marijuana for three days. He then submitted to a blood test. The results showed a THC level 3 times the legal limit in his system, even after 72 hours. You can read his post here.
The law can change in the future. After more research on marijuana and impairment, politicians could change the legal limit. Case rulings can also alter the way the law is applied, but any change through those methods will be slow coming.
Regardless of whether you agree with the limit or not, it is the law in Colorado on marijuana related DUI/DWAI charges. Colorado residents using marijuana should not get behind the wheel. Even if they “feel fine,” or think the effects have worn off, it’s in everyone’s best interest if someone else drives. If that’s not an option, a bus or cab ride would also be cheaper than a DWAI/DUI charge.
Yet, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. A DUI/DWAI charge for marijuana or alcohol is an dangerous and expensive mistake. DUI/DWAI laws are not forgiving to those who are charged with violating them.
But this type of mistake doesn’t make you a bad person. We’re all human and should be treated like such. That’s where Wolf Law is different from other criminal defense attorneys in Colorado. If you are charged with a pot related DUI or DWAI, contact Wolf Law at any time. Wolf Law is confidential and the initial consultation is free.