Being High and the DUI

Being High and the DUI

Since the 2014 legalization of marijuana in Colorado a plethora of highly debated laws have followed, spun forth by the mixed mindset of Colorado residents. They have defined, for the time being, the immediate issues that hang around the legalization of marijuana like a freshly puffed cloud of high end kush – when can you consume it and where? How much possession is too much possession? How many transactions can retailers engage in with you daily and for how long and when?

Now the initial contention in the aforementioned areas has become like background noise in a crowded restaurant that 2018’s issues are desperately trying to talk over. And the loudest issue of all is this: DUIs.

In January 2018, The Denver Post reported that a staggering 10,000 arrests for DUIs were reported in 2017. And, again according to The Denver Post, crashes involving impairment by marijuana is “rising sharply”. No studies have defined what such a statement might mean, nor have they substantiated such claims but it does bring about an important legal discussion: What should be classified as a DUI when high?

As it stands, for a person to be issued with a DUI while high depends on the amount of active THC is that is present in their system at the time. Specifically, anything over 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood is seen in the same way that having that extra Bud Light is seen—that is, completely illegal. However a John Hopkin’s study in 1995 showed that four puffs of marijuana flower resulted in 57 nanograms per milliliter of blood and would render the consumer far over the legal limit.

At first glance, the measurement of what is legal and what is not legal seems as black and white as a Charlie Chaplin film. However, the argument stands that the 5 nanogram per one milliliter of blood law is not a measurement that can be used universally by any means, and is significantly low.

Fierce debate hinges on the fact that people metabolize, and are affected by, marijuana very differently. While this figure might indicate the inhibition of a one-time user who couldn’t resist that decadent but very special brownie at lunch, it does not indicate much more than a slight and fleeting buzz for a long-time user or, in fact, someone of greater body mass, or faster metabolism or a number of other variables.

Even retailers abide by laws which work on the relativity of strains, and types of THC that users are buying. For example, retailers can only provide 1oz of marijuana in the form of flower. For THC however, the amount varies appropriate to the strength of the product. For example, wax weighs in at an equivalent of only 8 grams per every 28 grams of flower. Retailers must only serve a set amount of marijuana yet the way that amount looks is relative to how strong the product is.

Unfortunately, the same insight and relativity is not extended to consumers when they take to the wheel, nor to the police force when assessing what is legal and what is not. While authorities and discussion forums urge users to err on the side of caution, the debate over the lines that define legal and illegal in regards to the DUI while high look to be the hot topic of 2018.


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About the Author: Alex Fisher