Prosecutors throughout the state are complaining that it's too hard to convict stoned drivers, according to a CBS4/Denver report. In Colorado, any driver with more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is legally presumed to be impaired, but those accused can rebut the charge in court. CBS4 cites the June 2014 trial of Westminster resident Melanie Brinegar, who was recently found not guilty of driving under the influence. Jurors were told that when she was pulled over for expired tags, she was not driving erratically. While she did fail roadside sobriety tests, jurors reportedly tried the tests themselves and found them difficult while sober.
The Marijuana Policy Project states on its website that "Metabolites can be detected weeks after impairment wears off, and THC can be detected days or even weeks after some regular consumers last used marijuana." That being the case, this rebuttal process could be a lifesaver for people who consume a lot of marijuana, including cancer patients and those who use pot to relieve severe pain. Adding that element of jury discretion allows for the justice system to address possible drugged driving with all available evidence.
Brad Wood, the jury foreman on Brinegar's case, told CBS4 that what she was pulled over for influenced their decision.
"If the officer said, 'We saw her weave,' it probably would have been a different story," Wood said.
Accused growers indicted
Bringing a seven-month investigation closer to its end, a federal grand jury has indicted two men for crimes related to illegal marijuana operations. According to a Department of Justice press release, 33-year-old Parachute, Colorado, resident Luis Adolfo Garcia and 23-year-old undocumented immigrant Luis Rios-Cortes have each been charged with one count of manufacture and possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, plus one count of conspiracy to commit the same.
The two men were identified in part by their vehicles, which had been seen around the Dolores River near the border between Montrose and Mesa counties since April, near where Bureau of Land Management and DEA officials busted two large illegal grow operations in September.
In mid-November, BLM and DEA officials executed search warrants in concert with other agencies and tied both men to 1,720 pounds of dried weed. Both the manufacture and possession and the conspiracy charges carry minimum five-year sentences, with penalties maxing out at 40 years and $5 million in fees.
Rios-Cortes was also charged for being an undocumented immigrant in possession of a firearm, for which he can be sentenced to no more than 10 years in jail with fines up to $250,000.