WASHINGTON – Rep. Jared Polis helped convince Coloradans to regulate marijuana like alcohol, now the Boulder Democrat wants to convince Capitol Hill lawmakers to fund marijuana like alcohol too.
Polis has authored legislation to expand the federal definition of driving while impaired to include what is called “stoned driving.” The bill would allow states such as Colorado and Washington that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana to receive federal dollars to reduce the incidence of driving while impaired.
“As more and more states follow the will of their citizens and implement regulations to treat marijuana like alcohol, it is vital that we keep our roads safe and save lives by updating our driving under the influence laws,” Polis said in a statement.
“The LUCID Act creates a single federal standard that will protect the public from impaired drivers and train law enforcement officials to effectively identify offenders,” Polis said.
Annmarie Jensen, a lobbyist with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, said her organization endorses the legislation. “We believe the bill supports efforts to reduce incidences of impaired driving,” she said in an email.
Polis was a vocal supporter of Amendment 64, the 2012 initiative that legalized the recreational use of pot in Colorado, and has been a staunch defender of it in Congress.
The subtitle of the initiative included the phrase “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.” Although the State of Colorado abides by that standard, federal law does not. Using, possessing, and selling marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Polis’s bill would amend a section of the Federal Highway Authorization Act that pertains to drunk drivers. In contrast to federal law, which has a uniform standard of 0.08 blood-alcohol content to define driving while intoxicated, the proposed legislation would let states where marijuana is legal determine the standard of driving under the influence of marijuana.
The Obama administration has allowed the state of Colorado to skirt the Nixon-era Controlled Substances Act by not enforcing the federal ban on the recreational use of pot.
Colorado’s legalization of marijuana added $2 million to state coffers in January, according to state revenue officials. But the effect of the law on federal funding has not been a frequent topic of discussion among lawmakers.
A Polis spokesman would not comment on the amount of federal funding Colorado might receive if the legislation became law.
The Transportation Department secretary has the authority under the Federal Highway Authorization Act to withhold ten percent of Colorado’s federal funds through a 2005 transit-and-surface transportation law if the state does not enforce violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
“I would hope (the Obama administration) would be consistent with what it’s done with the rest of policy on marijuana,” Polis spokesman Scott Overland said in an interview, referring to the Justice Department’s recent ruling on regulating pot businesses like more traditional businesses.