DENVER – State lawmakers are planning legislation for next year that would assist in tracking drivers under the influence of marijuana and other drugged-driving arrests.
The Durango Herald reported earlier this month that La Plata and other counties in Colorado are unable to track arrests for marijuana DUIs, despite the Legislature in 2013 setting marijuana impairment for driving at 5 nanograms of THC. Two lawmakers say they would like to solve the issue with legislation that would implement a statewide tracking system.
“We just want to get a sense of if people are driving while under the influence, what are they actually under the influence of,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who plans to sponsor the legislation with Rep. Jon Keyser, R-Morrison, when the legislative session kicks off in January.
The current system used to track DUI arrests uses the same charge code whether it is based on alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. The Colorado State Patrol keeps a tally of arrests. But without local data, that offers only a glimpse into the situation on roads across the entire state.
Todd Risberg, 6th Judicial District Attorney in Durango, told the Herald earlier this month that he was discussing the issue with other prosecutors, hopeful the state could create a separate charge code for marijuana and other DUI offenses. He said such a tracking system would allow for evidence-based problem-solving. Risberg was not available Tuesday for comment.
Singer said creating an evidence-based system is critical, especially as the state grapples with the emergence of legal marijuana.
“I want to put this marijuana debate to bed,” Singer said. “Whether more people are driving high, driving drugged or driving drunk, we should have the tools to answer that question.”
Ed Wood, founder of Denver-based DUID Victim Voices, an organization that promotes laws to curb driving under the influence of drugs, said the problem is not just with marijuana, it’s with being unable to track arrests and judicial outcomes for driving under the influence of all drugs. Wood’s organization conducted its own research and found, in 2013, there were 27 vehicular homicide cases caused by DUI, at least 10 of which involved drugs.
“Yet in only one of those cases was marijuana identified as the sole intoxicant,” Wood said.
He is all too familiar with the subject, having lost his son to a DUID incident in Washington five years ago.
“Myself and some other DUID victims banded together to make sure our voices are heard,” Wood said. “What I want is to have a reformation of our DUI laws recognizing the dangers of DUID. It requires a significant number of changes to our laws, and the Legislature is not about making changes without the data.”