Lawmakers pass bill to change DUI testing for marijuana

Marijuana and DUI: What to know before you get behind the wheel

It's already legal for anyone over the age of 21 to use marijuana, but many still have questions about how people are tested for driving under the influence of the drug.

Lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that could change what DUI testing looks like in the Silver State.

"There's three parts of marijuana that I'd like to discuss today." Las Vegas medical students Charles Cullison and Graham Lambert explained their research to senators. They said urinalysis only tests for one of the compounds in marijuana, which does not have a psychoactive effect.

Lambert said, "this is an issue because it's non-psychoactive. It stays in the body for long periods of time, long after any psychoactive effects."

AB 135 aims to outlaw urine testing for driving under the influence of pot because research shows urinalysis does not account for the two ingredients in the drug that are psychoactive.

John Piro from the Clark County Public Defender's office said, "we're moving towards looking for the actual psychoactive ingredient that is going to be indicative of impairment."

If the bill becomes law, drivers will have to submit to a blood test if they are suspected of DUI. Researchers say blood tests are a better indicator of impairment because they measure the two psychoactive ingredients in marijuana, like THC.

Medical student and researcher Charles Cullison said, "blood alone accurately shows the levels of hydroxy and marijuana."

While the way law enforcement tests for DUI could change, some things will not.

Piro said, "This bill is dealing with DUIs and DUIs only. We're not stopping an employer from using a urine test to show that their employee used drugs and not to hire somebody."

AB 135 doesn't change the legal limit for driving under the influence of pot. If a driver has more than two nanograms per milliliter of THC in their blood, they can be arrested for DUI in the state of Nevada.

Assemblyman Steve Yeager proposed AB 135. He said, "there's been a great amount of interest in potentially raising the levels."

Some marijuana advocates say the two nanogram legal limit is too low. It compares to legal limits of 50 ng/mL for cocaine and 100 ng/mL for amphetamines.

Yeager said, "my belief would be with respect to the active THC, any consumption is going to get you over two nanograms of THC." The assemblyman said it's likely someone would test positive for DUI, even 12 hours after consuming marijuana, when they're no longer high.

Yeager also believes factors like a person's weight and tolerance to the drug can affect impairment more than how much marijuana they actually consume. He's concerned because traces of marijuana can remain in a person's system for weeks.

"My hope going forward is that we actually do have some studies that try to correlate consumption with impairment," Yeager said, "but right now we just don't have those studies."

Several people also testified before senators, saying they want to see the legal limit for marijuana stay at two ng/mL. They all believed it's important for public safety to keep the legal limit low.

AB 135 has already passed in the Assembly. It passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday. The bill will now move to the governor's desk for approval.

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