THC/DUI News from CTI
CTI Letter to Drug Policy Task Force
September 7, 2011
Dear Drug Policy Task Force Members:
The Cannabis Therapy Institute is a patient advocacy and education
organization, representing thousands of patients in Colorado who
are too sick to participate in the political process. This letter
is in regards to your possible recommendation of THC/DUI nanogram
per se limits for Colorado legal medical cannabis patients and others
NO CONSENSUS ON THC/DUI AND IMPAIRMENT
As you can see from the Marijuana DUID (Per Se) Workgroup summary
report, the members of this panel were not able to reach a consensus
on whether impairment could be accurately correlated with a specific
THC/DUI per se limit. The research shows that different people react
differently to THC, and that legal medical cannabis patients and
others will often have nanogram levels far above 5ng, and still
be perfectly safe to drive.
TARGETS INNOCENT PATIENTS
A THC/DUI nanogram per se limit would unfairly target innocent cannabis
patients for arrest and prosecution. Because most patients use cannabis
continuously to control their conditions, they do not have the option
to take their medicine later. They need to take it on schedule,
just like any other medicine. Because of this continuous use, patients
will often have more than 5ng of THC in their blood and still not
For example, Westword reporter and marijuana patient William Breathes
had his blood drawn to prove that a patient would be above the 5ng/mL
limit even when sober. His THC blood content, after 16 hours of
fasting, was 13.5 nanograms, well over the 5ng limit. Yet his physician
certified that Breathes he was completely unimpaired and safe to
CLEARLY DEFINE PROBLEM
First, it is necessary to clearly define the problem that the committee
is trying to solve with the THC/DUI recommendations. CDOT statistics
show that there has been no increase in accidents or fatalities
related to THC in Colorado and that driving fatalities have decreased
every year since 2007. See "Colorado
Drugged Driving Fact Sheet"
CDOT statistics show that DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) evaluators
declared that 16% of the fatalities involved illegal drugs of some
sort. CDOT also claims that 58%
of those DRE evaluations "came up with a result of marijuana
as a drug involved."
However, in an Aug. 8, 2011 email to CTI, CDOT spokesperson Heather
Halpape admitted that the 16% statistic does also include people
whom DRE evaluators determined were under the influence of alcohol
or other illegal drugs, in addition to the THC. So this statistic
is also misleading because there is no way to determine whether
THC was the only substance involved or whether THC actually caused
Given the fact that there is no empirical data to show that there
is a THC/DUI driving "problem" in Colorado, it may very
well be that there is no problem at all.
Before the DPTF recommends a solution, the committee must clearly
define the problem and the metric by which "success" of
the solution will be measured.
CTI EDUCATION CAMPAIGN:
USE CANNABIS RESPONSIBLY: IF YOU MEDICATE, THEN WAIT
Of course, the Cannabis Therapy Institute does not support or promote
driving while impaired on any substance. We believe an educational
campaign based on the real effects of cannabis would be of best
benefit to all Colorado citizens at this point, until the research
proves there is a clear problem and that the THC/DUI per se limit
is the only solution to the "problem".
CTI has started a THC/DUI educational campaign based on facts about
cannabis effects on driving and the realities of Colorado's marijuana
laws, stressing the importance of personal responsibility and knowledge
of how cannabis affects you.
The CTI THC/DUI educational campaign is based on the FDA's warning
on Marinol (a synthetic form of THC prescribed in pill form). The
caution statement on Marinol reads:
"Patients receiving treatment with Marinol capsules should
be specifically warned not to drive, operate machinery, or engage
in any hazardous activity until it is established that they are
able to tolerate the drug and to perform such tasks safely."
The federal government believes patients using THC-therapy are
safe to drive, as long as they are cautious about how the medicine
may affect them. Why then would Colorado adopt a standard that anyone
with THC in their bloodstream was impaired? Instead of an outright
prohibition on driving, the FDA gives rational, adult advice to
patients to wait and see how cannabis affects them before they drive.
The FDA recognizes that most patients will be able to drive safely
after ingesting cannabis and expects patients to exercise personal
responsibility and common sense to determine their own impairment.
The CTI THC/DUI awareness campaign can be summed up with these
phrases, "Use cannabis responsibly. If you medicate, then wait."
The length of time a patient will have to wait after they medicate
depends on many factors. But once a patient get used to the effects
of THC, they are likely to be able to drive safely.
CDOT "DRUGGED DRIVING" CAMPAIGN
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced its new
Drugged Driving Campaign on Aug. 14. While it is commendable for
CDOT to try to educate patients about cannabis use and driving,
CTI believes the campaign is designed to frighten and demonize patients
while falling far short of providing any meaningful education about
the effects of cannabis.
The message behind the CDOT Drugged Driving Campaign is that the
legal consequences of driving under the influence of cannabis are
the same as the legal consequences of driving under the influence
of alcohol. This is true and useful information for patients. However,
the usefulness of the campaign seems to stop there.
The CDOT message is that it's "not safe to medicate and drive."
Clearly, thousands of patients in Colorado know that this is not
true and have been driving safely for years. Many patients feel
targeted and disrespected because of discriminatory campaigns like
TRUE EFFECTS OF THC ON DRIVING
Most cannabis experts agree that THC, as only one of the active
ingredients in cannabis, can cause side effects that may affect
driving in some people, including drowsiness, decreased reaction
time, and distraction. However, the truth is that these side effects
are minor, and most patients can compensate for them and drive safely.
TIME OF ONSET AND DURATION
The most important educational information for cannabis consumers
is what the side effects of cannabis are, the time of onset of these
side effects, and how long they might last.
Some examples of cannabis onset and duration charts can be found
in the Erowid Vaults under Cannabis Effects:
The Erowid charts show that the onset of the effects of smoked
cannabis usually occur within 10 minutes of smoking, peak in 15
to 30 minutes, and have a total duration of 1 to 4 hours.
For consumed cannabis (edibles), the onset of effects can take
up to 2 hours, peak in 2 to 5 hours, and have a total duration of
4 to 10 hours.
The Erowid page also contains a very important statement:
"Caution: Reactions and experiences may vary dramatically from
person to person."
So, once again, the FDA advice is the most appropriate: Wait until
you see how it affects you and you are certain you can drive safely.
The scientific evidence linking a specific THC per se limit to impairment
in all people does not exist. The evidence gathered by the Marijuana
DUID Workgroup confirms this, as does all the evidence given in
the testimony on HB 11-1261 in the state legislature. A THC per
se limit discriminates against legal medical cannabis patients who
will quite often be above a 5 ng limit in their blood because of
their chronic use, but not be impaired at all.
1) Define the problem clearly and the metric by which the success
of the solution will be measured.
2) Do not institute a DUI per se limit that will cause innocent
patients to be prosecuted.
3) Recommend funding for an educational campaign based on facts,
not fear, to show patients how to recognize the effects of cannabis,
how long cannabis may take to produce the effects, and how long
those effects might last.
4) The medical cannabis industry should not adopt the blanket advice
to their patients to never medicate and drive. Rather, medical cannabis
patients should be specifically cautioned not to drive, operate
machinery, or engage in any hazardous activity until it is established
that they are able to tolerate the drug and to perform such tasks
The advice to patients should be to "Use Cannabis Responsibly:
If you medicate, then wait." Since all patients are different,
and the methods of ingestion have various onset times, the amount
of time a patient will have to wait will vary and will be determined
by the patient responsibly.
Educational campaigns based on fact will be more helpful to our
Colorado citizens than a blanket attempt to prosecute anyone with
THC in their blood, regardless of real impairment.
By definition, in Colorado, medical cannabis patients have debilitating
medical conditions and are very sick with chronic or terminal illnesses.
Colorado citizens enacted our medical marijuana law out of compassion
for patients and wanted to allow patients to use cannabis safely
without fear of discrimination. A THC/DUI per se limit would unfairly
target a large group of Colorado citizens based only on the fact
that they chose marijuana over other prescription drugs, which have
no per se limit. Please recognize the compassionate need for medical
marijuana patients to be free from discrimination and allow them
to use their medicine of choice in a safe and responsible manner.
Let's treat Colorado cannabis patients like responsible adults and
not assume that they cannot drive safely just because of a random
number with no scientific or rational basis.
Thank you for your sincere attention to this matter. Please let
me know if you have any questions.
Laura Kriho, Director
Cannabis Therapy Institute
P.O. Box 19084, Boulder, CO 80308
TO: Colorado Drug Policy Task Force
Sub-Committee Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Chair/ Law Enforcement / CCJJ
Grayson Robinson, Sheriff, Arapahoe County
Juvenile Justice / CCJJ
Regina Huerter, Executive Director, Denver Crime Prevention &
Bill Kilpatrick, Chief, Golden Police Department
Mental Health Treatment Providers / CCJJ
Reo Leslie, Colorado School for Family Therapy
Prosecution / CCJJ
Donald Quick, District Attorney, 17th Judicial District
Legislative, CO House / CCJJ
Mark Waller, Representative, 15th District
Legislative, CO Senate
Evie Hudak, Senator, 19th District
Legislative, CO Senate
Pat Steadman, Senator, 31st District
Department of Corrections
Tim Hand, Director, Parole Division
Shane Bahr, Coordinator, State Problem Solving Courts
State Board of Parole
John O'Dell, Parole Board Member
Substance Abuse Treatment Providers
Carmelita Muniz, Colorado Association of Alcohol and Drug Service
Behavioral Health Treatment Providers
George DelGrosso, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council
Christine Flavia, Division of Behavioral Health
Dolores Poeppel, Victim Assistance Program, CO State Patrol
Community at Large
Christie Donner, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
Tom Raynes, CO District Attorney's Council
Greg Long, Chief Deputy DA, 2nd JD
Dan Rubenstein, Chief Deputy DA, 21st JD
Mark Hulbert, DA, 5th JD
Rod Walker, Deputy Chief of Police, Colorado Springs PD
Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
Maureen Cain, Defense Attorney
Sean McAllister, Defense Attorney
Brian Connors, Colorado Public Defenders Office
Kathleen McGuire,Colorado Public Defenders Office
Staff: Christine Adams (Christine.Adams@cdps.state.co.us or 303-239-4496)