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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Legal Limit for Driving On Marijuana Debate

Despite the federal government’s disapproval of the passing of legalization in Washington and Colorado, the states are moving forward with establishing the rules for their new laws. In Colorado the legislature is preparing to debate the legal limit on how much marijuana can be in a person’s system before they are considered to be impaired, The Denver Post reports.

Right now it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana in Colorado, but impairment must be proved by prosecutors in every case, the article points out. With the passing of new law, marijuana will need to be treated the same way as alcohol when it comes to driving.

The debate will probably cite two conflicting studies to establish the limit, according to the article. An analysis of nine independent studies which include 50,000 people, published in the British Medical Journal, found that those driving under the influence of marijuana were linked to an increased risk of a motor vehicle crashes and for fatal collisions. Driving under the influence of marijuana was associated with almost twice the risk of a motor vehicle crash.. However, the second found that marijuana-limit laws do not impact traffic fatalities.

One bill that will be taken into account by the legislature sets the marijuana limit at 5 nanograms of THC/per milliliter of blood. People with at least 5 nanograms of THC would not be automatically convicted, and can argue their case in court even if they reach 5-nanogram limit.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), researchers found that the 5-nanogram limit may be too high to capture drivers impaired by marijuana. Marilyn Huestis (NIDA) conducted a study on marijuana use and psychomotor function, she says active THC quickly falls below the 5-nanogram limit within 24 hours. “The level of 5 nanograms per mil is pretty high,” she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“We know that people are impaired at lower levels than 5, but the balancing act is trying to find a number that can reliably separate (the impaired from the not-impaired), which is almost impossible to do.”

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