When Initiative 502 was on the ballot last fall to legalize pot, the medical marijuana lobby screeched that a new threshold for driving high would give cops the ammo they needed to sweep the roads for innocent stoners. They claimed, without scientific evidence to back them up, that people who smoked pot a week before would be unjustly sent to the slammer after I-502 passed.
The Washington State House's Public Safety Committee is holding a hearing right now on drivers impaired by marijuana and the prominent testimony is that nothing much has changed. The law established 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood as the impairment threshold for drivers. (You can watch live on TVW.)
Thus far, Rob Sharpe of the state patrol has been talking about potential use of saliva tests to to determine intoxication levels (instead of blood draws in medical facilities, as state law has long prescribed for marijuana DUIs).
But prosecutors say that they've seen no notable shift in marijuana DUI cases since the measure took effect in December. Rachel Cormier Anderson, a lawyer in the Seattle City Attorney's office, says, "I-502 hasn't changed much. We have been filing marijuana DUIs since forever. We have not in the City of Seattle received a marijuana DUI since the law went into effect." She adds that prosecutors are waiting on lab results in a couple cases.
Amy Freedheim of the King County Prosecutor's Office also says their practices have not changed since the law passed—the office charged pot DUI cases before the initiative passed and they continue to. "We look at the totality of an incident," says Freedheim, citing the circumstances of the crash and condition of the driver, not just the THC levels in drivers. She adds that collecting a blood sample within two hours of an arrest (while active THC levels are highest) will be challenging. Two cases have been filed in King County since the per se standard in I-502—that 5 nanogram limit—went into effect, she says.
Patricia Fulton, a defense attorney, adds that she has not seen any change in marijuana DUI cases in her practice.
Upcoming: discussion about science on driving under the influence of marijuana. (I've written about pot DUIs to death over here.)