“This bill is not an anti- or pro-marijuana bill,” says House Bill 168’s sponsor David “Doc” Moore, R-Missoula. “It’s about impaired driving.”
The bill seeks to set the legal limit at 5 ng/ml of delta-9 tetrahyrocannabinol. It’s the same limit set in Montana’s medical marijuana laws.
He says now that Montana’s neighbors -- Washington and Colorado -- have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, he’s concerned impaired drivers may be traveling through the state.
Montana Highway Patrol Sargent Curt Sager trains law enforcement officials in drug recognition. He says while DUI cases involving alcohol are on the decline in the state, marijuana continues to escalate.
He told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2010 that 372 of the DUI cases involved marijuana; in 2011 that rose to 476; and last year it grew again to 486 cases.
Sager adds the numbers are growing for DUI fatalities involving marijuana. He says they now account to ¼ of the cases.
“So obviously this is a very dangerous, deadly problem that we’re encountering on our roadways,” he says.
He says setting a legal limit for Delta-9 THC for marijuana is based on the .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) in the DUI laws.
Retired chiropractor Pat Pardis is a member of the Montana Cannabis Information Association. He’s against the bill, saying science is inconclusive as to whether the 5 ng/ml limit is accurate to designate an impaired driver.
“We do not believe that per se laws really improve safety on the highway,” he says. “It may make it easier to put somebody in jail or into a treatment program.”
HB 168 passed through the Montana House on a 80-18 vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee did not immediately act on the bill.