Lawmakers across the country continue to be confounded by the question of drugged driving. As marijuana becomes legal in more states, the question of how much is too much to drive continues to be asked and is most often inadequately answered.
In the state of Florida, one state legislator is offering his own answer to the drugged driving question in the form of a bill that would set a blood level limit on individuals driving under the influence of marijuana.
House Bill 161 would impose a legal limit for drivers of 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood. This is in keeping with other drugged driving laws, like in Colorado, that have similar limits.
Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Dave Kerner, the bill was inspired by an accident that took the life of a young teenager in March of this year. According to the Palm Beach Post, 16-year-old Naomi Pomerance was involved in an auto accident as she was riding on the back of a scooter near West Palm Beach.
The individual driving the scooter had run a red light and was struck by oncoming traffic. Police have claimed that the driver was high on marijuana at the time of the accident, but no charges or citations have been filed.
Speaking with CBS 12, Kerner explained the difficulty of convicting an individual for DUI manslaughter in cases involving marijuana.
“Juries are really confused when it comes to … whether there was impairment involved or not,” Kerner said.
Under current Florida law, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana but there is no set limit on the books. This ambiguity in the law can make ruling on a marijuana-related case difficult for both judge and juries.
“… we really need to have a hard standard of impairment, and we can do that through technology,” Kerner added.
The pursuit of finding the perfect THC blood level to mark driver impairment has been a difficult process that has confounded many experts. The difficulty in THC blood level lies in the fact that THC resides in the body long after impairment.
Heavy users will naturally have higher THC blood levels, even when completely sober. As previously reported in MJINews, a 2003 controlled test on marijuana users found that “six of 25 heavy users contained active levels of THC in their blood after a week of abstaining, the highest being 3ng/m.”
And therein lies the rub. It may be easy to determine blood levels, but determining impairment is still a tricky issue. And while while setting lower limits for THC blood levels may prove to be problematic in the long term, no evidence has yet to indicate that implementing lower limits have caused any issues.