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Committee Seeks Bill to Charge Drivers Under Influence of Pot

AUGUSTA, Maine — Concerned about the risks posed by motorists under the influence of marijuana, members of the legislature’s criminal justice committee want to formally take up the matter through legislation.

Some lawmakers on the panel would like to know more about what the drug’s blood-level limit should be in order to satisfy a charge of operating under the influence of marijuana.

Like alcohol impairment, marijuana impairment can’t be determined unless it’s based on blood testing and turns up a certain level of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. Last year a study group that tried to determine what that level should be couldn’t agree on a standard.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says opinions on that point vary, but that the majority of the working group settled on five nanograms.

“The seven versus five nanogram threshold, there was not agreement on this,” Dunlap says. “The majority of the group was comfortable with the five nanogram, there were some that felt that five was too low of a threshold given the metabolizing effect of THC in how long it lingers in the system beyond having an intoxicating effect.”

Members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee think it’s important to settle this question. And State Rep. Justin Chenette, a Saco Democrat, says competing views are best analyzed through the legislative process and supported a joint order to create a bill.

“What we’re supporting is a joint order to report out a bill to at least have a public conversation, have the public before this horseshoe, to have these conversations,” Chenette says. “It is by no means a reflection of whether or not we support the final outcome.”

Some marijuana legalization advocates say any proposed bill will have to distinguish recreational pot users from medical marijuana patients.