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3 Clarifications on Colorado's drugged driving laws

This week, California became the eighth state to legally allow the recreational use of marijuana. Colorado of course made history by legalizing pot back in 2012, though the law didn't go into effect until January 2014. Still, four years is long enough that many have come to tolerate, if not exactly accept, the reality of legalization in Colorado.

However, this familiarity can also lead to uncertainty or even misinformation about Colorado's laws governing marijuana use, particularly those governing drugged driving. How similar are drugged driving laws to DUI laws? Turns out, they are very similar. Below are three clarifications on Colorado's stance to driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Yes, there is a legal limit for marijuana

Everyone knows that .08 is the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. In drugged driving cases, Colorado law enforcement tests for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. By law, drivers with over five nanograms of active THC in their systems will be charged with drugged driving.

And though five nanograms is the "legal" limit, you may still face charges if officers have reason to believe you were driving while impaired. Why? Because, like alcohol, THC affects different people differently. Officers base their decision to stop someone on observed impairment, not necessarily on the amount of whatever substance the driver consumed. If officers have reason to believe you're a danger to others on the road, they can stop you and may seek charges based on the outcome of your traffic stop.

Having a prescription doesn't help

Even if you only use marijuana for medicinal purposes, it's still illegal to drive with THC in your system. A valid prescription won't save you from criminal charges if you are stopped for suspected drugged driving. In the eyes of the law, the drug is still an impairing substance, regardless of why it was taken.

Marijuana products are subject to open container laws

As with beer and other alcoholic beverages, marijuana use is subject to Colorado's "open container" laws. This means that it's illegal to smoke and drive, or carry open packages of weed or edibles in the car. Materials must be in sealed packages or stored in the trunk of the car for transportation.

Don't be like the 55 percent

According to a survey conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2016, over half of pot users feel it's safe to drive after smoking or ingesting edibles. This may seem unsurprising, given the number of people who overestimate their ability to drive after consuming alcohol.

Nevertheless, in the last few years, Colorado has increased its number of drug recognition experts, officers who are trained specifically to spot the signs of drug impairment. So, it's more important than ever to understand Colorado's laws when it comes to recreational marijuana use.

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