Marijuana Legalization: High Drivers Now a Major Concern in Washington, Colorado


Marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington. One of the thorniest issues state officials are now trying to figure out is how to deal with high drivers.

The active ingredient in marijuana can stay in your system for months. So if a cop pulls someone over, thinks they are under the influence of marijuana, and takes them in for a test, how do they know if the driver just smoked, smoked yesterday, or smoked a month ago?

If someone is a regular smoker, as in daily or a couple times a week, it'll be irrelevant. They'll always be in violation of driving laws.

On Monday, the governor of Colorado signed two executive orders that amend the state constitution, making it legal to smoke marijuana, and set up a task force to look at all the other related laws.

“This is a bit of unprecedented territory, so trying to find the right approach has proven difficult and cumbersome,” Representative Dan Pabon (D-Colo.) told CBS News.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, is measured by nanograms per milliliter. Washington State has set the driving limit to 5 nanograms per millimiter (ng/ml), a level that failed to pass the Colorado legislature. Its one of the issues its task force will be taking up.

“What we’re learning about is how you measure impaired driving,” says Lenny Frieling, the chair of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML). “If you can stand on one leg and bounce up and down does that mean you can drive or not?”

Ironically, one of the biggest opponents to Washington State’s new marijuana law has been medical marijuana groups that fear the tougher sanctions on “high driving” that the law would bring.

According to NORML, there are number of factors that can affect what comes up on a urine test. In short, for a “regular user” that smokes daily or several times a week it could take months of abstinence to fall below the 5 ng/ml threshold, meaning they would never not get a DUI, essentially. For one-time users, it could be a matter of hours or days until they fall below the threshold, depending on the individual and amount consumed.

If it's legal for someone to smoke marijuana every day, say in the evening, is it fair that they can't drive legally in the morning?

I don't know, do you?