Lawmakers in Maine are trying to create a bill that would set a legal driving limit for the THC level in a driver’s blood to assist in determining Operating Under the Influence (OUI) charges. The bill was rejected on Thursday by The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee due to disagreements on how the THC levels could be tested. Lawmakers are concerned because THC affects each person differently and it also stays in the blood, even after its effects have worn off, creating obvious obstacles for a marijuana drug test to determine with absolute certainty that a driver is incapable of driving safely.
Lacking Concrete Science
The proposed blood level limit for the marijuana blood test was 5 nanograms of THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) per milliliter of blood. After hearing months of testimony from various sources including advocates of marijuana use, voters within the committee felt that there was no solid science to support the specific 5 nanogram limit. Concerns regarding unfair convictions based on inconclusive science has now put a hold on the bill.
Not “Ready for Prime Time”
Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, said that the THC blood testing had yet to reach suitable scientific clarity, giving her concern that medical marijuana users would get unintentionally swept up into the legal system without the right testing structure in place. She further stated that “every dollar that we spend on pulling people into the criminal justice system is one less dollar we have for preventing and treating actual drug issues that our state is facing. I think we worked really hard for this, but I just don’t think it’s ready for prime time.”
Varying Views on a Legal Limit
Other states such as Washington, Montana, and Colorado have set the legal limit for THC in the blood at varying levels between 1 and 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood, creating a vast difference in legal driving limits. Rep. James Davitt, D-Hampden, said “We could take out the section on nanograms entirely and leave it to the good sense, the training of the police to gather information, gather facts and determine whether or not to charge somebody with driving under the influence of drugs, they do it anyway. If we take out the nanograms, what we have left is a bill that says you should not operate while under the influence of alcohol or drugs — and we’ve already got that.”
The Portable Marijuana Drug Test Aspect
Another aspect of this bill was unrelated to the marijuana drug test. It involved allowing the use of a portable alcohol test for law officers. Committee co-chair Rep. Lori Fowle, a Democrat from Vassalboro, felt that provision was not focused on. He explained, “It got lost. I think the committee was feeling that they hadn’t heard enough about it. That this bill was really focused of the nanograms and THC levels. That was kind of brought to them now as an afterthought.”
Although the bill was rejected, it seems that the issue is not over. It could be on the floor as soon as next week. The science for creating a legal limit is still being looked at and it’s possible that an agreed upon marijuana drug test for Maine drivers and law enforcement will be introduced sometime in the future.