Marijuana: Was damning report on DUI lab delayed because of THC driving bill?

Last month's passage of a THC driving bill, following two failed attempts, was achieved thanks to a language tweak that convinced one-time opponents to sign up. But might they have balked if they'd known about alleged problems at the state lab where the blood testing required by the new law will be done?

One marijuana advocate can't help wondering, especially since the report (on view below) wasn't released until Friday even though it was completed in March, during debate over the bill.

The bill sets an intoxication standard of five nanograms of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) per milliliter of blood. Those who test over that number aren't automatically assumed to be guilty: The text's "presumptive inference" rule allows chronic users whose systems may register over that figure even when sober to argue in court that they weren't actually impaired.

But the law still puts a great deal of weight on blood test results to be generated by the state toxicology lab, operated under the auspices of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and, until recently, overseen by Cynthia Burbach.

The rub? As Alan Predergast reported yesterday, defense attorneys held a press conference yesterday to complain about the tardy release of a report on the lab by the Mountain States Employers Council, which "delves into employee concerns about inadequate training, unsafe storage of evidence, understaffing, supervisor bias" and other concerns.

The investigation was actually completed in March, but wasn't made public for months -- and was only shared after supervisor Burbach had retired.

Suthers insists that there was no foot-dragging when it came to issuing these details. In a statement circulated after the press conference, he said in part, "The details of this personnel report involve a complex intersection of various laws, including civil, privacy and employment laws. Once prosecutors in my office became aware of the potentially mitigating nature of the information contained in the Mountain States Employers Council report, I immediately acted to ensure its expeditious release."

Attorney Rob Corry, among the most vocal critics of the THC driving bill, isn't buying it.

"There's no question in my mind that somebody sat on that report," Corry says. "I don't know who, but the report was known to the government, and it should have been known to the legislature, it should have been known to opponents, and it should have been known to the general public."

Continue for more of our interview with Rob Corry, including photos and documents.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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