03/11/2011 09:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bill Limiting THC Levels For Drivers Has First Hearing

Colorado state lawmakers gave initial approval on Thursday to a bill that would establish a legal limit for how much THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) drivers can legally have in their system.

House Bill 1261, introduced by Republican Mark Waller and Democrat Claire Levy, received its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday afternoon. The bill "would allow a person who drives with a tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) blood content of 5 nanograms or more to be charged with DUI." Levy has said that the bill is intended to strengthen existing laws that make it illegal to drive under the influence of any drug in Colorado.

At Thursday's hearing, Waller called the issue "pretty analogous" to limits on blood alcohol levels for drivers.

Opponents of the measure point out that THC levels have been shown to remain high in some peoples' bloodstreams hour hours after they've stopped smoking.

"Clearly, we see it as a witchhunt on medical marijuana patients," said Laura Kriho, a spokeswoman for Colorado's Cannabis Therapy Institute in her testimony at Thursday's hearing.

Mike Elliott, Executive Director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, was more measured in his analysis of HB 1261. "We are pleased to support the concept of this bill," he said in his testimony. However, Elliot stopped short of a full endorsement of the legislation, arguing that "there is a lack of research on this issue, particularly concerning edibles, and appropriate time frames for safe consumption and impairment."

HB 1261 was approved by the Judicial Committee on a 6-2 vote.