In 2012, the state of Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults ages 21-years and older. This action essentially eliminated the potential for criminal charges resulting from cannabis possession or use. However, drivers pulled over for suspected impairment may still face criminal charges if they have active tetrahydrocannabinol in their systems at the time of their arrests.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, people may be charged with driving under the influence if they have active THC in their whole blood. The legal marijuana limit for drivers is five nanograms of active THC. Regardless of drivers’ THC levels, law enforcement may arrest them if they observed impaired driving.
In addition to recreational users, some people use marijuana and cannabis-containing products for medicinal purposes. Drivers may face DUI charges for marijuana impairment whether the substance was prescribed to them or legally acquired for recreational use.
According to the Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services, the criminal penalties for a DUI conviction involving marijuana are the same as those imposed for alcohol-related convictions. Classified as a misdemeanor offense, a first-time DUI carries a mandatory minimum of five days, and a maximum of one year, in jail. Additionally, they face a fine of between $600 and $1000, as well as a sentence of 48- to 96-hours of community service. In some cases, drivers may reduce their potential penalties by agreeing to undergo drug treatment or by reaching a plea bargain.
Drivers convicted of marijuana-impaired driving not only face criminal penalties. The state imposes administrative penalties for DUIs involving drugs. This includes a nine-month suspension of their driving privileges for a first-time DUI, as well as 12 points on their licenses.