HB 1114 Unanimously Approved by House Judiciary Committee.
On Tuesday, February 26, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved House Bill 1114, which would establish limits to infer impairment for a person driving with THC in their system.
Under current Colorado law, it is already illegal for a person to drive while high or under the influence of marijuana. However, prosecutors must prove in court that the driver was actually affected, usually by reference to the observed driving and performance of roadside tests. No particular THC level is required for a conviction. As a procedural matter, HB 1114 would assist prosecutors obtain convictions for any person driving with a THC level of five nanograms or more of THC in their system without having to prove that the driver was actually affected, although the driver could still present the jury with evidence that he or she was not affected. In essence, HB 1114 would allow the prosecutors to argue that a jury may infer that a driver was impaired when the presumptive limit was reached or exceeded.
The statement released on Tuesday by House Republicans Communications Director Justin Miller states as follows:
The House Judiciary Committee gave their approval to House Bill 1114 today, which establishes limits for people driving under the influence of marijuana. The bipartisan measure is sponsored by House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, and state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. This is the third consecutive year Waller has introduced legislation that would create limits for drivers under the influence of marijuana.
“We can’t kick this can down the road any longer,” Waller said. “It’s high time we give law enforcement the tools they need to ensure the safety of our roads.”
Similar to blood alcohol limits for drunk drivers, under HB 1114, a driver in Colorado will be considered under the influence of marijuana if five or more nanograms of delta-9-THC is present in a milliliter of whole blood. Delta-9-THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that renders a driver impaired after consumption.
Unlike limits on blood alcohol content, however, a driver who reaches the five nanogram limit can argue in court that he or she is unimpaired at five nanograms because of their tolerance, size or other contributing factor. This “permissive inference” helps address the concerns of medical marijuana users who are chronically above five nanograms but function as if they were sober.
In 2011 alone, 13 percent of deadly crashes in Colorado involved marijuana. The number of marijuana users in Colorado is also expected to increase after voters legalized the recreational use of cannabis last November. As such, lawmakers in Colorado have felt a growing sense of urgency to create a standard that determines when a person may be impaired by the use of marijuana.
“This is a public safety issue,” Waller added. “It is never ok to get behind the wheel and put citizens’ lives at risk. This bill will make people think twice about doing that.”
The Bill now goes to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration.