Hawaii lawmakers ask how much marijuana is acceptable while driving

Hawaii lawmakers ask how much marijuana is acceptable while driving
Published: Mar. 28, 2016 at 4:55 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 29, 2016 at 1:27 AM HST
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Rep. Cindy Evans (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Rep. Cindy Evans (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Hawaii's medical marijuana dispensaries set to open in July, state lawmakers are racing to set a limit for stoned drivers.

Rep. Cindy Evans introduced a resolution that looks at how much marijuana a driver can safely consume before getting behind the wheel of a car.

"Impaired driving is impaired driving and we have laws in the books for driving under the influence of alcohol, so why not under the influence of marijuana?" said Evans.

The resolution asks the Department of Health to study the issue and establish a threshold and testing protocol that would determine whether someone is safe enough to drive after using marijuana.

"Medical marijuana is possibly a precursor to legalization and we as a society need to determine the consequences of having more marijuana in our community," Evans said.

But DOH opposes the resolution saying it doesn't have the capacity to study the complicated question, especially since it doesn't include funding.

States including Colorado, Montana and Washington have laws specifying how much marijuana in the blood stream is acceptable while driving, but they set different standards and there's no federal rule.

A Hawaii toxicologist says even if the Aloha state sets a limit, determining if a driver is stoned at the moment will require a blood draw.
"A urine level wouldn't be adequate," said Scientific Director of Toxicology Carl Linden. "They would have to get a blood level because the blood is the only way to determine under the influence the effect of a drug. I feel the pain of the DOH. It's not easy but I can see it will have to be addressed in my opinion."

The House Committee on Transportation passed the resolution Monday and will now move on to the Committee on Health.

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