Stoned-driving limit stumbles

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A Senate panel on April 22 killed legislation that attempted to set a blood standard for being too stoned to drive.

But lawmakers may still have an opportunity to put a driving-stoned limit on the books this legislative session.

House Minority Leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, told Colorado Community Media that the House will still try to get a standard through that deals with driving while under the influence of marijuana.

That effort will come in the form of an amendment to one of the bills dealing with the regulation of Amendment 64.

“It will fit into one of those bills,” Waller said. “The best way to do it would have been through legislation.”

But that route is not possible now, after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 against moving House Bill 1114 forward, a bill that Waller sponsored in the House.

The bill would have limited drivers to five nanograms per milliliter of blood for THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient.

But committee members expressed a number of concerns, such that the law might unfairly affect medical marijuana patients and whether the standard would lead to police enforcement issues over blood sampling.

“I take it very seriously for people to drive impaired,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who voted against the bill. “I also take it very seriously for the government to prosecute people who aren’t impaired.”

Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, the bill’s senate sponsor, was the only committee member to vote for the legislation.

The bill had momentum going into the committee hearing. For starters, this year’s bill would have set a less stricter stoned-driving standard than in year’s past. And it breezed through the House on a 57-6 vote.

“We didn’t see this coming at all,” Waller said of the bill’s demise in committee. “After talking with Senate leadership, I was under the impression it would pass.”

The House minority leader said he was “incredibly disappointed” that the legislation did not pass, especially since the bill had been “watered-down in such a way to make it more palatable for everyone involved.”

Now the plan is for the stoned-driving standard to be included in one of the omnibus bills that deal the regulation of Amendment 64 — the voter-approved measure that legalizes recreational marijuana use in Colorado. The legislature must pass Amendment 64 regulations this session, or it will be up to the Department of Revenue to put its own rules in place.

Waller said the Amendment 64 Task Force would have dealt with this issue originally, but it was determined that the standard was better dealt with through its own legislation.

The first committee hearing dealing with one of the Amendment 64 bills was scheduled for April 24 prior to press time. Waller did not know which bill the stoned-driving amendment would be tacked on to, but said that it wouldn’t be difficult for it to be worked on in a day, in time for that hearing.

Waller also said that if an amendment does get through the House, and that if it is somehow stripped during the legislative process, that he “is confident that a senator would be willing to bring (an amendment to the bill in that chamber).”

If a stoned-driving standard does not prevail through an amendment, it would mark the fourth time that an effort of its kind has failed in the General Assembly.