DUIs For Even a Trace of Weed Being Considered in California
Timothy Norris for LA Weekly
A proposal in the state legislature could mean DUIs for drivers who aren't stoned but who toked a few days ago.
It would also target motorists who have even a trace of such prescription drugs as Ambien, Vicodin or even phentermine, a diet drug, in their systems when they're stopped by cops who think they're impaired.
Medical marijuana supporters are aghast. And they might have good reason to be:
Weed's main ingredient, THC, can stay in your bloodstream for a few days, even if you're long past being stoned. The cannabis community says laws like this (which was also proposed last year, unsuccessfully) will have the effect of persecuting regular medicinal users.
The bill, AB 2500, was recently introduced by Assemblyman Jim Frazier. It would mean that any detected amount of any controlled substance, including some prescription medicines, would be cause for a drunk-driving conviction.
We reached out to Frazier's people for his take on this, but we had yet to hear back. According to the language of the legislation:
This bill would make it unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle if his or her blood contains any detectable amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol of marijuana or any other drug classified in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the California Uniform Controlled Substance Act.
Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML , told us the bill "gives you a DUI if you have any controlled substance in your blood stream. It's pretty extreme."
As it works its way through the legislature, it's possible AB 2500 could be amended to apply only to marijuana, Gieringer said.
In any case, the last few attempts at doing this failed, and he thinks this one will too. "It flopped last year and it will flop this year," Gieringer said.
Whew, many of you are saying.
But not so fast. Some district attorneys and city attorneys in California are clamoring for some kind of standard for marijuana DUI. As it is, there's no equivalent to alcohol's .08 blood-content threshold for prosecution.
A number widely being discussed is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter, which is the threshold in Washington state.
Gieringer said NORML would oppose any California legislation proposing such a limit:
This clamoring for a number is a general panic brought about by the whole legalization movement. We already have tens of millions of stoners on the road. We've had them for 30 years.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.