GOP-Led Bill In Ohio Seeks To Relax Cannabis OVI Rules, Motorists Can Argue Their Sobriety Levels

Ohioans who get stopped while driving with marijuana in their system could try to prove they weren't impaired under a bill introduced in the state Senate this week, reported News 5 Cleveland. 

What Happened?

A measure from state Senator Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) is seeking to amend the Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI) law standards.

Why It Matters

Manning, who already introduced Senate Bill 26, said that the law needs to be amended in a way to target only those who drive impaired.

"Under the current statute for an OVI, it's testing whether or not it's in your system," he said. "Now that we have legalized it for medical purposes, I think we need to update the statute to where we're looking at whether or not somebody is impaired."

By removing the per se limits for cannabis and its metabolites to determine an OVI violation, the bill also ends automatic license suspensions.

Manning, whose bill to prevent people from the burden of a criminal record for a marijuana paraphernalia arrest was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this month, is addressing the fact that cannabis often lingers in a human body for days following consumption.

"There are situations where somebody is arrested and has consumed marijuana in the previous few days and technically would be above that 'per se' level, even though there's no impairment whatsoever," he said.

Under the measure, drivers will be allowed to have up to 25 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their urine, more than double the current approved concentration. In blood samples, the limit would be raised to five nanograms of THC per milliliter.

Determining Cannabis Impairment Is Difficult

Still, determining if someone is impaired remains hard, Manning continued.

"The consensus of the scientific community is clear that there is no acceptable limit of marijuana that automatically makes a person impaired," he said.

Connecticut State Senator Paul Cicarella (R) agrees.

"There's not really a test that can determine when somebody is under the influence of the marijuana," he told NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck, adding that the "false positive rate and false negative rate is so high that again, that might be a challenge to be admissible in court as well."

Connecticut, which recently launched its recreational cannabis market, so far has only about 60 officers statewide that have been trained to recognize those driving while high on weed.

"We definitely do not have enough officers that have the proper training," Cicarella said. 

Photo: Courtesy of A n v e s h on Unsplash

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