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Driving while high: Why Coloradans are being falsely accused

Posted on 09/15/16

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana use Colorado, law enforcement officials have cracked down on people allegedly driving under the influence of the drug. Unfortunately, crackdowns involve testing for THC in the blood.

What does this mean for drivers? It means that you can be arrested and charged with driving while under the influence of marijuana–even if you are not impaired.

A conviction of a marijuana DUI charge can result in penalties similar to those that are assessed due to an alcohol DUI conviction. They can include the lengthy suspension of your driver’s license, community services, expensive fines and incarceration.

About Colorado’s Marijuana DUI Law

In the state of Colorado, the marijuana DUI statute is based on the statute for an alcohol DUI as there is a set number that is used to determine whether someone is too impaired to drive. In the case of marijuana, the substance that is being measured is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component of marijuana that gives you a high. The legal limit in Colorado is five nanograms of THC for each milliliter of blood.

Because there is no marijuana breath test that can used, a law enforcement officer will use a chemical blood test to detect the presence of THC and whether or not you are under the influence as defined by Colorado law. If you have a THC level that is five nanograms or over, you are presumed to be impaired and may be subject to arrest for a marijuana DUI.

However, it can be difficult to determine whether a driver is actually high while driving. Unlike alcohol, the levels of THC in the body do not correlate to a certain degree of impairment.

Determining Marijuana Impairment

The manner in which THC metabolizes in the human body is much different than alcohol as THC does not dissolve in water like alcohol. Because it is stored in your fat cells, it does not leave your body as quickly as alcohol does. THC can remain in your system for days, long after the effects of the drugs has disappeared. In fact, you can be completely sober while still having a level of THC in your body that surpasses the legal limit.

There is also no universal scientific agreement on how much marijuana consumption it takes to make a person too impaired to drive. The use of alcohol DUI standards is why it can be difficult for a prosecutor to prove during a trial that a driver was impaired from using marijuana.

The fact is that both recreational and medical marijuana users can exhibit levels of THC in their bodies that are many times the legal state limit days after consuming marijuana. You can be pulled over at a checkpoint and you can be accused of driving under the influence, even if you are not.

If you have been falsely arrested and charged with a marjuana DUI, you should consult an experienced attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.