Denver, CO- Marijuana has been legal for recreational use in Colorado for a little over two weeks now and first new blip of a stoned driver has made it down the wire.
The collision occurred Saturday night on a ramp off of Interstate 76 around 9 p.m. Two state troopers had stopped to investigate a traffic accident and were blocking the left lane of the exit ramp. Both patrol cars had their emergency lights on so they should have been easy to see.
But apparently 23 year-old Keith Kilbey didn’t see the patrol cars before he slammed into one of the officer’s Crown Victoria, which was pushed into the other officer’s Dodge Charger. Neither of the officers was in their car at the time, and no one suffered injuries. The patrol cars sustained minor damage.
Police arrested Kilbey for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. They key word here is suspicion since marijuana can only be detected with a blood a test which takes weeks to get results.
Colorado State Patrol spokesman Officer Nate Reid said, “Luckily, no one was hurt this time. But there are people who have been injured in the past and will be injured in the future because of this.”
According to Reid, Colorado law enforcement are particularly concerned about stoned drivers who have smoked for the first time or haven’t smoked in a while.
“If people who maybe aren’t used to what marijuana does to them use it and then get in their car, it can turn out badly,” said Reid, according to Westword. “Just because you feel okay, it can still have an effect on the way you drive. And if you put yourself behind a 3,000 pound vehicle after you ingest something when you don’t know the effect on your body, it can be very dangerous.”
Since marijuana became legal for recreational use in Colorado, law enforcement agencies across the state have received $43,000 in federal funding to combat stoned driving.
The “Don’t Drive Stoned” initiative includes TV ads warning of the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana due to begin in March. The ads will also warn drivers that if they are charged with marijuana DUI they will face the same penalties as drunken drivers. In addition to the television ads, flyers will be distributed to pot shops throughout the state.
After Amendment 64 passed, Colorado legislators moved quickly to pass a legal standard for marijuana intoxication. Drivers who have 5 Nano Grams of THC in their systems will face drugged driving charges, which pot advocates say this too low for chronic marijuana users who test positive for THC weeks after they have smoked and many non-impaired drivers could face criminal convictions.
In Colorado, a DUI attorney can argue that a driver with 5 Nanograms of THC in their systems is not impaired, giving them the opportunity to avoid conviction. Any person facing DUI charges whether it is for marijuana or alcohol need to have a strong defense, otherwise they could find themselves behind bars.