Congressional Hearing on “Drugged Driving” Risks


With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, the decriminalization of marijuana in several other states, and the spreading legalization of medical marijuana, federal legislators have turned their focus on methods for policing those who may operate different types of vehicles while under the influence of marijuana. A recent hearing, titled “Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Operating While Stoned,” lasted for almost two hours and included testimony from officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Despite the appearance of these officials, the hearing reportedly provided few conclusive answers to lawmakers’ questions.

Complications with Marijuana DUI

Every state in the United States has a specific legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) while driving. This limit of 0.08% helps identify when a driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. However, there is still no similar legal limit set out for marijuana. There is no specific directive indicating how much marijuana in your system is enough to sufficiently impair your judgment while driving.

Furthermore, a test may show that the driver had some traces of marijuana in his or her bloodstream, though this is hardly an adequate indication that the driver was at all impaired by marijuana at the actual time the vehicle was being operated. Marijuana can stay in a person’s system for days, weeks, or even months, depending on certain factors such as body fat, weight, and the frequency of marijuana use of a particular user. For example, particularly heavy marijuana users can report positive for the drug up to 90 days after stopping use. If one of these previously heavy users gets stopped by police and tests positive, it is entirely possible that they have not used for some time. Therefore, such tests are not always accurate in identifying DUI.

The overall consensus following the Congressional hearing was that little scientific information was available regarding the exact dangers of drugged driving or the best methods of measuring whether a driver was impaired. A Representative from Florida, John Mica, suggested that United States officials should look into European technology that measures recent marijuana use. The handheld devices reportedly use a swab to discover whether a DUI suspect has used marijuana or other substances within the last few hours. Other Representatives simply recommended that more scientific research be performed regarding drugged driving. Such research may include close examinations of traffic and arrest statistics in Washington State and Colorado in light of the marijuana legalization. We will keep an eye on any additional movements by federal or state legislatures regarding marijuana DUI.

If you are facing charges for a marijuana-related DUI, there are numerous ways to fight these charges. You always want to make sure that you have a highly experienced DUI defense attorney representing you in order to avoid wrongful conviction or severe sentencing. Denver attorney Jay Tiftickjian is at the forefront of DUI defense in Colorado, and will work to fight your marijuana DUI charges. Do not delay in contacting our office today for assistance with your case.

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