Cannabis and Colorado DUI laws have always been a smoky area when it comes to enforcement and that haze is not going to waft away any time soon. A new DUI law going into effect today mandates jail time for DUI convictions without the potential for reduced sentences. If convicted of a felony DUI the defendant will serve a minimum of 90 days, whereas work release verdicts will carry a minimum 120-day sentence. Geared towards cohesion in sentencing, and seemingly aimed at stiffer punishments for driving under the influence of alcohol, the new law will undoubtedly impact cannabis users.
Although the designation of intoxication from marijuana consumption, defined by THC levels in the blood, has not changed; the likelihood that we’ll see users jailed has certainly increased. As one cannabis user we spoke to put it, “If I get pulled over any day at any time and tested, I’ll probably be going to jail.” This particular user indulges in recreational pot consumption on a daily basis and not for medicinal purposes. As of this writing, there has been no separation between medicinal and recreational users in the eyes of the law. If under the influence, it is irrelevant whether the substance causing impairment was obtained legally. The Colorado department of Transportation deems impaired driving an arrestable offense regardless of substance.
Alcohol and marijuana carry with them the same consequences for driving under their effects, but it is the level of intoxication observed by the officers which can determine whether you will be arrested and later tested. Colorado law enforcement officers are all qualified to spot impairment, in fact, they are trained to do so. A program called ARIDE teaches officer how to spot impairment, including mixed usage of substance such as alcohol and weed, and determining the method by which to obtain a sample for testing. In Colorado, 5ng of THC will land you in the backseat of a police cruiser for driving under the influence.
The legalization of marijuana, both recreationally and medicinally, is relatively uncharted water and with the newest DUI laws in Colorado; navigating those waters is only going to become more difficult. There are Colorado lawyers now specializing in marijuana defense and it would be wise to consult with one if you find yourself on the wrong side of handcuffs, it may be the difference between 90 days minimum and getting the proverbial book thrown at you. Whatever direction the law takes, I think one thing is clear. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t smoke and drive.