DUI felony law especially bad for medical marijuana patients

dui-checkpoint-306x306I will be testifying against HB-1036, the DUI Felony bill, in the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee today.

A lot of people in the marijuana community support this bill because, I believe, they don’t understand the scope. They believe that DUI still means drunk driving…alcohol. And after all, Jenny Kush, a well-loved marijuana activist, was killed by a habitual drunk driver, so that’s all the motivation they need to want to see this bill passed. But all those folks are mistaken. DUI now applies to marijuana, not just alcohol.

Remember that nasty little 5 nano gram law that passed last year? The one that says if you’re above 5ng of THC in whole blood you’re impaired. That’s not a separate charge. That’s Driving Under the Influence. DUI. And under this new law, three of those will get you a felony. So again, as always, those with the greatest potential to be unjustly convicted under this law are patients.

Last year, when the DUI for THC law passed, law-makers told me that they didn’t believe that 5ng was the right number, but they had to have something. We said “like alcohol” after all. The right number would eventually get sorted out in court. I told them then that it was too bad it had to happen on the backs of innocent patients. The response: shrugged shoulders. I wonder if they would have been so cavalier had they known it could so easily be turned into a felony in the following session. How can you give someone a felony and send them to prison when you’re not even sure the threshold is correct?

The penalties for DUI for THC are the same as for alcohol. Give up your license. Give up use of the offending substance. Install a breathalyzer in your vehicle. Attend alcohol abuse classes. Pay a bunch of money.

It’s bad enough that  I have to relinquish my license, but  why would I need a breathalyzer for alcohol if my only offense was for marijuana? Breathalyzers don’t detect marijuana. This is just an added, unnecessary, completely useless and unjustified expense to further punish cannabis users, even if they are patients.

Worst of all, patients can be forced to give up the use of cannabis while they are on probation. What other medications, what other patients, are treated that way? Would you force someone to give up the use of all prescription pain-killers? Would you tell a cancer patient they couldn’t use their nausea medication even during chemo? That’s essentially what our DUI law does.

To add insult to injury, patients are forced to attend classes that you cannot pass until you admit that you are either an addict or alcoholic. How can a patient be expected to do that? This is medicine!

Yeah yeah, I know, THC for DUI isn’t “per se” like alcohol. In other words, you can challenge the charge in court. But how many patients, who may already be financially compromised due to their condition, can afford thousands of dollars to fight a DUI charge?

There may not be a lot I can do to stop this bill, but I’m at least going to get it on the record that as an extension of our current DUI laws, this bill is completely biased against medical marijuana patients. HB-1036 should be amended to exclude THC or killed altogether.

Categories: Advocacy, Alcohol, Colorado, Driving, Law Enforcement, Patients, Policy & Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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