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Drug Testing News
Nevada bill boosts
legal marijuana level in blood while driving
3/31/2003 06:30 pm
Police and prosecutors clashed Monday with advocates of a bill
changing the Nevada law dictating the legal levels of
marijuana in a motorist's blood stream.
Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, told the
Assembly Judiciary Committee that changing the current levels
are too low, and the higher ones are better measures of
whether someone is impaired while driving.
But representatives of police agencies in Las Vegas and Reno
and the state's district attorneys argued the change would
make it virtually impossible to prosecute people for driving
under the influence of the drug.
Giunchigliani's AB362 would increase the threshold for
marijuana levels from 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood to
15 nanograms. The bill also removes provisions allowing urine
tests for marijuana use.
The assemblywoman said the purpose of the bill is to get to
the driver who is impaired and not just a"casual user"of
"In going back to the original testimony (in committee),
Giunchigliani said."There was no reasonable scientific basis
for picking 2 and 5 (nanograms). And I think what 2 and 5 does
is capture your casual user. It does not capture those who are
Giunchigliani said 15 nanograms is the level the state
Personnel Department uses as a threshold for workplace safety.
Dr. Bill Anderson, chief toxicologist in the forensic science
division of the Washoe County Sheriff's office, said that
increasing the threshold to 15 nanograms is excessive.
Anderson said that of 319 positive tests conducted by his lab
over the past year for THC, marijuana's active drug, 60
percent had between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter or
blood. Just 6 of the 319 cases had THC levels at 20 or above,
the level initially suggested in the bill.
Anderson said that once marijuana is consumed, the level of
THC spikes sharply in the blood, but it also decreases very
He said that because of the time frame for stopping motorists
and transporting them to a medical facility for a blood test,
people could have 15 nanograms of THC in their blood when
pulled over, but have just 5 nanograms when the test is
James Jackson, a lobbyist for Nevada Attorneys for Criminal
Justice, said his organization supports the measure because
it's an effort to focus more directly on actual impairment.
"It connects the presence of (marijuana residue) with being
under the influence rather than going the other way where all
you have to do is show it's present and therefore you're
guilty of an offense of driving while impaired,"Jackson said.
No scientist who testified before the committee could provide
a numerical threshold at which people become impaired from
Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, assigned the
measure to a subcommittee for further consideration.