More clarity is a good thing
Local law enforcement embrace new pot limit
Local law enforcement officers are embracing the new standards for determining whether a person is driving under the influence of marijuana.
The standard is five or more nanograms of THC, the active ingredient of the drug, per milliliter of blood for marijuana smokers, and the urinalysis tests that can detect traces of the drug for around 30 days may no longer be used for drivers suspected of being under the influence of the drug.
Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said having a legal allowable limit like alcohol will be helpful to his deputies.
Before Amendment 64, which allows the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana, the sheriff's office was able to use urinalysis tests to determine if a person was driving under the influence of drugs if other factors existed.
Other factors include failing roadside maneuvers or driving erratically.
Currently, deputies when suspecting impaired motorists with drugs being a possible reason can require them to submit to either a blood or a urinalysis test.
If the person refuses to provide a sample his or her license will be suspended for a year.
The sample is only asked for when the driver exhibits other signs of impairment officers spot as drug use.
The sheriff said five nanograms is a lot and likely will not result in many users being over the five nanogram level to drive legally.
He also said the limit will reduce the guess work for police officers, similar to the .08 blood-alcohol-content motorist limit for alcohol consumption.
"It would be helpful," Spruell said. "Five nanograms is a good standard, and we need some type of (level). It's a good starting point."
While it depends on the person or the potency of the pot, Spruell said a person could take a few puffs and be over the limit, while others may need to take a little more to reach that same level.
"It depends on the weed when you take a couple of puffs and you are set to go," Spruell said.
"A first-time user will be impaired more than a regular user," he said
The sheriff said the limit is high enough where a person who smokes a little the day beforehand will not register the five nanograms limit and will be OK to drive.
Although like alcohol, a person who consumes a large amount of the drug the night before could still be legally impaired if they drive the next morning. He reiterated the legal limit to drive would be used in conjunction with the other evidence and factors already in place that show the driver was not able to properly operate a motor vehicle due to being impaired.
Police, he said, can still make an arrest and request for charges to be filed for motorists who do not meet the legal limit but show impairment signs and fail roadside maneuvers.