Problems with Measuring Under the Influence Levels of Marijuana


Opponents of the legalization of marijuana have historically cited the potential increase in drugged driving as one of their main arguments. As soon as recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado, numerous prohibitionist groups spoke out and warned legislators and residents that drugged driving would increase the incidence of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on Colorado roads. Such groups often cite studies that claim that the legalization of pot in Washington State and the legalization of medical marijuana in numerous other states led to an increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana usage.

Only fueling the fire regarding drugged driving are media headlines that seemingly attempt to play on readers’ emotions. For example, one news story recently claimed that two drivers who both died in a Longmont, Colorado crash were “high.” The article states that toxicology reports on both drivers demonstrated they were “high on pot” and “above the limit” for drugged driving. However, studies and headlines regarding drugged driving all tend to have one common flaw: clear limits for marijuana intoxication have not yet been established due to testing challenges.

What is the “limit” for marijuana and driving?

Colorado law currently states that if a driver tests positive for at least 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in their blood, they are presumed to be driving while under the influence of marijuana. However, THC can often remain in a person’s system for several days or even weeks after use. Heavy marijuana users are particularly susceptible to test positive for levels of THC, even if they have not used marijuana in some time.

This means that many drivers may test over the limit for THC even if they were not actually impaired at all while they were driving. In the news story mentioned above, it is entirely possible that neither driver had actually used marijuana that day, but instead had used it the day before or earlier in the week. For this reason, headlines and studies that claim to measure the instances of drugged driving are inherently misleading. Additionally, many drivers may find themselves charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana when they were not, in fact, impaired.

Furthermore, the assertion that the legalization of marijuana automatically leads to greater danger on the roads is not accurate. Numerous studies show that the rate of fatalities on the roads decreases after marijuana is legalized. Researchers hypothesize that this decrease stems from drivers choosing to use marijuana instead of alcohol, which leads to a decrease in the number of drunk drivers on the road.

Call an Experienced Denver DUI Defense Attorney Today

Whether you are facing allegations for drunk driving, drugged driving, or any other offense related to DUI, it is extremely important that you have an attorney with extensive experience defending both alcohol and marijuana-related DUI cases in Colorado. Jay Tiftickjian is a skilled Denver DUI defense lawyer who understands the many ways to defend against DUI charges and limit the consequences you may face. Please do not hesitate to call our office today for help with your DUI case.

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