Although it is illegal, arrests for driving while impaired by marijuana are rare in Summit County.

"Our numbers are staggeringly low," undersheriff Derek Woodman said.

Like a Gunshot blast!

Convictions for driving under the influence of drugs ( DUID ) are low too, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said.

But a proposed state measure limiting the amount of THC a driver can have in his or her system could change that.

"We get a lot of not guilties," Hurlbert said. "When we talk to the juries, they say we want a number."

That number, if Senate Bill 117 is passed into law, would be 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. The measure squeaked through its first real test on the floor of the Colorado Senate Tuesday, passing by a 18-17 vote.

In Summit County, the bill is getting equally mixed reactions.

Hurlbert, who served on an eight-member state task force to investigate the validity of a law that would set specific limits on stoned driving, backs the proposal on the table, calling it a public safety matter.

"We’re seeing DUI marijuana accidents rise," Hurlbert said. "We don’t want it to become a crisis. We’d rather address it earlier and send a message that you cannot drive while you’re stoned. That’s what this law is attempting to do."

But Breckenridge medical marijuana attorney Sean McAllister, who served alongside Hurlbert on the task force, says legislation like SB 117 will cause problems for people who are sober behind the wheel as well.

"Summit County is a place that’s more favorably inclined toward marijuana in general and medical marijuana specifically," McAllister said. "One of the main problems is that chronic or regular users potentially could always be over that 5 nanogram level."

Even if they haven’t smoked marijuana for a day or more and are no longer feeling its effects, he said.

It’s already illegal for a driver to get behind the wheel with any marijuana in his or her blood stream, but that’s not the avenue law enforcement officers in Summit County generally pursue in making arrests, Woodman said. It’s more common, when a driver is pulled over and determined to be impaired, that drug use falls second to alcohol intoxication.

But the law, if anything, would be to the advantage of the driver, Woodman said. Currently, any marijuana in the system at all, however minute, is illegal. This law will give the driver 5 nanograms of leeway. "There should be parameters," Woodman said.

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To advance, SB 117 has to pass another vote on the Senate floor. Once in the state House of Representatives it will need at least another four affirmative votes before it heads to the governor’s desk.

Summit’s Rep. Millie Hamner ( D-Dillon ) supported a similar bill last year, but said she is keeping an open mind on this year’s legislation. Sen. Jean White ( R-Hayden ) did not immediately return a call for comment.

News Hawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Summit Daily News
Website: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Caddie Nath