Members of the Nevada Legislature are currently considering changing policy for determining when a person is considered too impaired by marijuana to drive. A committee of state legislators voted in favor of moving forward with implementing performance-based tests for marijuana, instead of testing the blood or urine for metabolites and other chemicals associated with cannabis use.
Currently, Nevada Revised Statutes § 484C.110 sets policy for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Under the present law, a person is considered per se intoxicated if he or she has 10 ng per milliliter in the urine or 2 ng per milliliter in the blood for marijuana, or 15 ng per milliliter in the urine or 5 ng per milliliter in the blood for marijuana metabolite. A person with this amount of substance in his or her system is considered “per se” intoxicated, meaning he or she is intoxicated despite to which he or she has full use of his or her faculties.
The Advisory Commission of the Administration of Justice’s Subcommittee on the Medical Use of Marijuana, chaired by Sen. Tick Segerbloom of Las Vegas, voted 9-3 to request a draft modeled after the law in California. Under California law, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana to the extent that a person in unable to act with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this effects-based approach has been adopted by 33 states.
The proposal would better reflect the reality of marijuana impairment. THC, the most significant impairing chemical in marijuana, does not operate in the same way as alcohol, in which BAC has a very heavy correlation with level of intoxication. Different people’s bodies process THC in different ways. People develop a tolerance to THC. It also remains in the system for a much longer time than alcohol, often long after the user stops feeling effects.
This is especially critical for the many people who use medical cannabis to treat a condition, which is legal in Nevada. A person who ingests medical cannabis may have sufficient THC in their system to violate DUI-marijuana laws for hours or more after no longer experiencing any type of real impairment of their faculties.
The Nevada Legislature will consider changing the law during their regular 2015 session. It is expected to have some pushback from law enforcement and prosecutors.