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Colorado may set DUI standard for marijuana in light of new law

Coloradoans passed Amendment 64 during the November election to legalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana by people 21 and older. It also provides for the licensing of cultivation and testing facilities. The Amendment made Colorado one of the most lenient states for marijuana use in the country.

However, unlike the marijuana amendment passed in Washington state, Amendment 64 did not set any standards for when marijuana users may operate a motor vehicle. Colorado has tried and failed to pass DUI standards for marijuana several times in the past but may be ready for a breakthrough.

Marijuana can impair motor skills, timing and judgment, making it dangerous to drive while under the influence. However, it is difficult to gauge how affected a person is based on the presence of THC alone. THC can remain in the body long after the effects of marijuana use have worn off - up to days or even weeks. Finding the right amount of THC in a person's blood is the key to crafting fair marijuana DUI legislation.

Law enforcement officials have proposed a limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. This proposal has been rejected in the past for being too strict but is gaining ground this time because of a built-in safety valve for motorists. If you are stopped in your car and test positive for more than 5 nanograms you may argue in court that you were not impaired, Judges and juries will have more flexibility in determining whether the THC impaired the motorist, which differs from alcohol DUI laws.

The gradual implementation of Colorado's new marijuana laws leave more room for confusion than ever as courts and lawmakers try to adapt to Amendment 64. New issues surrounding marijuana use develop every day. It is especially important during this time to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are facing drug or DUI charges. They can help you build a defense, navigate the changing laws and work for the best possible outcome in your case.

Source: The Denver Post, "Colorado heading toward a too-stoned-to-drive standard, experts say," Jessica Fender, Dec. 11, 2012

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