Nevadans legalized recreational adult use of marijuana in November. Now, state lawmakers are figuring out how to regulate it.
Part of that means fine-tuning state law to determine how high is too high to drive.
As Assemblyman Steve Yeager of Las Vegas’ 9th district is finding out, it’s not an easy thing to do.
Yeager introduced a bill to eliminate measuring a marijuana metabolite that everyone agrees does not show whether a person is impaired by the drug. Metabolites are substances that linger in the body after drug use, but they don't necessary mean someone is still feeling a drug's affect.
The issue was brought to his attention by two medical school students from Las Vegas’ Touro University.
They studied law enforcement departments throughout Nevada and found there was no standard for which metabolite to test. Some metabolites do cause impairment and some do not.
Under Assembly Bill 135, departments would test for the same thing.
However, the bill doesn't address one of the fundamental problems of having legalized recreational marijuana: a simple way to know if someone is impaired by the drug when he is driving.
Assemblyman Yeager blames the federal prohibition of marijuana for the lack of a test.
“There just aren’t the kind of studies on THC and metabolite that we would have on say alcohol,” he said.
Yeager said the limit for driving under the influence of alcohol was set after a lot of testing and a general consensus on what was safe. However, that has not happened with marijuana.
Nevada has set a limit of two nanongrams of THC metabolite but marijuana advocates say that level doesn't necessarily show impairment. In fact, one of the most famous cases of that involved a young woman from Las Vegas.
Jessica Williams was driving home from partying at a state park 50 miles from Las Vegas in 2000. She fell asleep and plowed her van into a group of teenagers picking up garbage in the median of I-15 as part of a juvenile court work program.
Six teenagers died. And Williams was sentenced to decades in prison. The jury found she was not impaired by the marijuana she had smoked the night before but because the metabolite she had in her blood was above the legal limit they convicted her.
Yeager said that type of case is what they're trying to avoid.
“Public safety is absolutely critical but we also want to give people due process and have fair prosecutions," he said, "I’m not sure we’re doing that at this point.”
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, (D) - District 3, said he will also introduce a bill related to THC and DUIs in the Senate.
While Nevada lawmakers lay down recreational pot regulations, there is a chance it could all be nullified by the new presidential administration.
President Donald Trump has said he approves of medical marijuana, but does not approve of legalized recreational marijuana.
While the administration has not acted yet, Segerblom told KNPR’s State of Nevada that he has a plan to counteract a recreational marijuana crackdown. The senator said he would introduce a bill that would make it much easier for people to obtain medical marijuana, as a way to get around it.
Yeager told KNPR's State of Nevada he thinks he would support a measure like that because legislators are "always looking at ways to make our laws better."
Steve Yeager, Assemblyman, (D) - District 9
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