St. Patrick's Day weekend: Drugged driving crackdown

KUSA - Police are cracking down on another type of green St. Patrick's Day weekend: people driving while high.

The legalization of pot has made a whole new ballgame out of enforcement for police.

Since the state passed Amendment 64 in 2012, lawmakers scrambled to find ways to encourage people not to drive high.

They found a way with a controversial bill passed last year that sets a THC-blood limit for Colorado motorists.

Drugged driving falls under the same statute as drunk driving; a driver will be charged with a DUI if they have more than five nanograms of THC in their system.

According to DUI defense attorney Jay Tiftickjian, drugged drivers will be prosecuted the same way as drunk drivers.

He says this will pose a problem for those who may not otherwise be impaired while driving.

"It's pretty scary because while I'm not advocating driving while high, there are a lot of people who will be pulled into that fishnet of five nanograms that may not be intoxicated or under the influence when they're driving," Tiftickjian told 9NEWS.

Unlike alcohol, THC levels are traced through a blood test, which can take nearly a month to process. That means those charged with drugged driving, even if innocent, won't know their fate for weeks.

"It does take a long time, and it's scary because someone is going to be arrested and they're going to be put in jail," Tiftickjian said. "They're going to sit there for 12 hours or so until they get bonded out and they're not going to know if they even have any THC in their system for a month based on that blood test."

Police are stepping up DUI enforcement across the state en light of St. Patrick's Day weekend, but now officers are trained to spot drivers who may be stoned.

They have been trained to smell for marijuana when they pull someone over under suspicion of driving under the influence, looking for dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes and other signs the driver may be high.

Last year, 486 drivers were arrested for drunk driving over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

The safest bet is to avoid a certain kind of green St. Patrick's Day weekend and have a designated driver, Tiftickjian said.

"We don't expect this [year] to be any different given the fact that St. Patrick's Day comes right near a weekend and everybody has the entire weekend to celebrate it," he said.

The St. Patrick's Day DUI crackdown will be in effect through March 18.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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