Back in February 2012, the Colorado General Assembly was considering a bill that would penalize anyone driving with more than 5 nano grams of THC in whole blood. This would have had a devastating effect on medical marijuana patients across the state.
I was recruited by other marijuana advocates to testify against this legislation. This was my very first testimony in a hearing, but I have never wavered from my opposition to a THC blood limit for driving because it is particularly unfair to patients.
DUID Testimony February 27, 2012
Colorado Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs
Chairman Heath and members of the committee,
After a car accident in 1987, severe pain has been with me every day. That’s 25 years and, at age 53, nearly half my life.
Chronic pain comes with its own limits. It controls what you do every day, what activities you participate in, what sort of work you can do, whether or not you are a productive member of society. Chronic pain is with you every moment and affects every aspect of your life.
After decades of pills and therapy, three years ago I got my medical marijuana license, and today I treat my pain entirely with cannabis, primarily using edibles which can take 45-90 minutes to take full effect. With edibles, I can maintain a consistent level of THC and CBD in my system and effectively relieve my symptoms without the side-effects of traditional pain medications.
I rarely drink alcohol because it increases my pain. I no longer use pharmaceuticals except for the occasional ibuprofen. All I use is cannabis. And I use it responsibly every day.
I guess that makes me a chronic user, although no one ever called my 5 years on antidepressants or 20 years on pain killers chronic use.
Choosing to use medical marijuana is a mixed blessing. While this plant can relieve your symptoms and give you back your life, like it did for me, the laws surrounding it put additional unnecessary limits on a life that is already limited by pain and disability.
As a medical marijuana patient I already have to choose between visiting my elderly mother in another state and not being in pain because I can’t take my medication with me across state lines. I’m told that because I’m a legal medical marijuana patient I can’t own a gun because I am “abusing” an illicit drug. I am already targeted by law enforcement, treated like a criminal and made to feel ashamed and guilty for choosing the most effective treatment for me: legal medicinal cannabis.
Although I have a clean driving record and have done nothing wrong, under this law you would effectively be forcing me to give up my driving privileges due to an arbitrary limit that has no basis in fact and no research to back it up, a law that would unfairly apply to me as a woman because of the simple biological fact that I have more body fat.
That cannabis-infused cookie I ate before bed to help me sleep may leave residual THC in my system on my drive to work the next morning. And like William Breathes, I may surpass the per se limit, although I slept through any cognitive effects and I’m not impaired in any way.
And if, down the road, I choose to use Sativex, a whole-plant cannabis-based pharmaceutical on track to hit the market in 2014, even if I take it as directed by my doctor, I will still be subject to this per se law even though the manufacturer itself says there is little chance of abuse or impairment.
And yet, because I, like other medical marijuana patients, am reluctant to further restrict my life by going to jail, I will be reluctant to drive anywhere even though I know that I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else.
Any job that requires me to drive is out of the question. I will be forced to use public transportation, rely on family and friends, or live within walking distance of my job. And in this economy, if I can’t find a job that fits within these restrictions and I want to apply for assistance, there’s talk of subjecting me to yet another unnecessary drug test.
I won’t be able to drive across town to visit my grandsons or down the street to the grocery store. All those little things we enjoy and take for granted, all those things that make life normal will all be off limits for me and other law-abiding medical marijuana patients, especially women, if this 5 nanogram per se limit is enacted.
Experts today have said that this law won’t change anything. Then why bother?
Chronic pain already limits what I can do, and now you’re proposing to apply another unnecessary limit that will only serve to further reduce my independence and restrict my opportunities to lead a productive life.
I respectfully ask you, please do not place more limits on my life. Please oppose Senate Bill 117.
The bill was narrowly defeated that year, even though it was brought up again during a special session.
In 2013, a modified version of the bill, a 5 nano gram permissible inference limit, was introduced. Cannabis Patients Alliance led the charge and defeated the bill when it was heard by the Judiciary Committee. It was introduced two more times in the same session before it was finally passed in the final days.
Cannabis Patients Alliance supports the rights of patients who choose medical marijuana, and will continue to fight legislation that unfairly infringes on those rights.