Marijuana seems to be a reoccurring theme this month. Canada, which legalized recreational use of the drug on Wednesday, has already had an opportunity to remind its citizenry that there are still some ground rules that must be followed. Literally one hour after weed received the green light, Winnipeg police issued a citation for consumption of cannabis inside a motor vehicle.
Last week, we described the difficulties Canuck police will face when attempting to prove someone is driving under the influence of the herb. However, the country’s updated rules mean cops don’t actually need to prove you were driving at all. Simply having it in the cabin is enough to get you slapped with a minor infraction.
Some time ago, TTAC published a guest post on the topic of driving under the influence of cannabis that more or less discounted the dangers of puffing while puttering around, at least for experienced potheads. Needless to say that post provoked some heated discussion. Now that Colorado has legalized marijuana for general use, the legislature there has decided that it was necessary to officially define “too high to drive”. It’s not clear if the reason was traffic safety or revenue since instead of using a behavioral standard for impairment, the new law creates an arbitrary blood level of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, that would define a driver as illegally impaired, whether or not they were measurably impaired in their driving. Critics of the way impaired driving is enforced already say that the drive to lower legal blood alcohol content limits was intended to catch people who weren’t actually impaired, driving safely but drunk according to the law, a classic case of malum prohibitum rather than malum in se. Setting an arbitrary limit for THC would allow DUID, driving under the influence of drugs, to join DUI as a cash cow for city, county and state governments.
The new law in Colorado allows juries to convict someone of DUID if blood tests show a THC level of at least 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. That level is the same as enacted in Washington following that state’s marijuana legalization initiative. It’s not entirely clear why the five nanogram limit was chosen. While some novice pot smokers may actually be impaired enough to affect their driving with 5ng/mL of THC in their blood, Reason, the libertarian publication, reports that many drivers are perfectly competent at many times that level of cannabinoids in their system.