Study Says Marijuana-Impairment Tests Flawed

With the emerging trend of legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana use, traffic enforcement departments throughout the country have needed to adapt procedures to allow for testing to determine whether a person’s driving ability has been impaired by the use of marijuana. However, a new study commissioned by AAA’s safety foundation has found that the tests currently used are flawed.

An article from CBS News indicates that the AAA study has found that there is no test that can determine a person’s level of impairment due to marijuana use. The tests currently used in states that allow marijuana use – Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Ohio – create a threshold level for the presence of THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes people high. These tests create an absolute threshold for the presence of THC in a person’s system, and automatically presume anyone over that threshold is driving impaired. However, the study has found that laws that simply establish a threshold level for the presence of THC may actually allow some unsafe drivers to remain on the road while penalizing otherwise safe drivers that may have used the drug at some point but might not be impaired.

In other words, THC can affect users in different ways. The side effects are heavily determined by the individual. Someone that uses marijuana on a regular basis may develop a tolerance for THC, and might not actually be driving impaired if a threshold test indicates the presence of the chemical in their system. This is especially true because frequent users of marijuana can continue to exhibit the presence of THC in their system even if they have not recently used marijuana. However, other drivers that only use marijuana occasionally may fall below the threshold when tested for the presence of THC but may, in reality, be driving impaired.

The AAA report recommends replacing the current threshold tests with laws that allow trained police officers to determine whether or not a person’s driving is impaired. From that point, tests for the presence of THC can be conducted. The article also references a New York University professor that explains that nine states currently have zero-tolerance laws when it comes to the presence of THC or related chemical compounds. The professor indicated that such laws did not make much sense considering THC and its metabolites can actually remain in the system for a long period of time after someone has used marijuana. This would mean that someone that uses marijuana at the beginning of the month could potentially be found liable for driving under the influence of marijuana weeks after actually using the drug.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Colorado

In Colorado, driving under the influence of drugs is a serious charge. Colorado law allows chemical testing to determine the presence of drugs in a person’s system, and the presence of five nanograms of active THC in a person’s system can lead to a citation for driving under the influence of drugs. The consequences for a conviction of driving under the influence of drugs can be severe, including possible jail time in addition to financial hardship incurred as a result of conviction.

While this new report indicates the flawed nature of chemical testing for the presence of THC to determine whether a person has been driving impaired, Colorado law still includes this five nanogram threshold. In addition to chemical testing, if you have been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs in Colorado, you have the option of participating in a Drug Recognition Evaluation. These evaluations are administered by police officers trained as drug recognition experts and help officers to determine the potential level of impairment with a given individual. These evaluations are voluntary, and officers may use the results to testify in court as to their findings.

Securing Your Defense

A criminal defense attorney with experience defending against drug-related charges can investigate the circumstances of your case to determine what the best defense options are for you. Potentially, an experienced attorney may be able to find flaws in the Drug Recognition Evaluation. An experienced attorney will discuss the potential consequences of your charges and help you determine what the best course of action might be. Jay Tiftickjian has written extensively on defending against drug-related charges in Colorado. If you are facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs, contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm today and schedule a consultation.