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Washington Tackles "Green" DUIs

The state now regulates high driving with a legal THC limit, and cops are cracking down.

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Cheech could face a blood test. Photo via

By Bryan Le

01/17/13

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With marijuana now legal in Washington, state officials are faced with the task of cracking down on “green” DUIs. Since I-502 passed on December 6, there have been more than 130 arrests for suspected drug DUIs, and the blood tests for these will be released in the next few weeks. Now that certain quantities of pot are legal, a THC blood concentration of five nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/mL) or less is required to drive legally. Seattle attorney Aaron Pelley, who helps people fight pot-DUI charges, says he's seen more cases in the past year than ever before. He believes police have been ramping up their enforcement of green DUI's in anticipation of I-502, and now that the law has gone into effect, he suspects there's been a "huge spike of number of people being tested." Now that there's an official legal limit for driving (like the .08 limit for drinking), Pelley says he can no longer argue on the grounds that his client wasn't “appreciably affected,” meaning more drivers will face penalties. But proponents of I-502 say avoiding DUI charges should be easy; smoking pot typically causes a THC spike of 50 to 100 ng/mL in blood, but the number drops drastically over a brief period of time. "Even heavy marijuana users like medical marijuana patients should have their THC levels drop below 5 ng/mL if they wait a few hours before driving," say I-502 backers on their website. They add that: "Scientists should continue to study the relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment, and I-502 earmarks funds for this specific purpose."

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