THC blood test: Pot critic William Breathes nearly 3 times over proposed limit when sober

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Last week, in advance of today's Senate debate over a bill that would set THC driving limits, I had blood drawn (for a second time) to see just how much active THC was in my blood even after a night of sleep and not smoking for fifteen hours.

As it turns out, I've got a lot. So much that I and thousands of other medical marijuana patients may be risking arrest every time we drive if the measure passes. Even when deemed sober by a doctor, my active THC levels were almost triple the proposed standard of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.

Among the concerns about HB 1261, the THC driving bill first offered by Representative Claire Levy, is the fact that THC can stay in the body days after patients medicate. And my latest test offers proof.

The lab ran a serum/plasma test which showed my THC count to be at 27. According to Dr. Alan Shackelford, who ordered the blood work and evaluated my results, the number of active THC nanograms per milliliter count is about half of that total, or 13.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

In short: If this bill passes and I was pulled over by police, I would be over the limit by 8.5 nanograms. By that logic, I would be more likely to have mowed down a family in my car on my way to the doctor's office that day than actually arriving there safely. But I didn't -- because I wasn't impaired.

Don't take my word for it. According to Shackelford, who evaluated me before writing the order to have my blood drawn last Wednesday, I was "in no way incapacitated." According to him, my test results show that it would not be uncommon to see such a high level in other people who use cannabis regularly -- like medical marijuana patients. "Your level was about 13.5 for whole blood... which would have made you incapacitated on a lab value," he said. "They need to vote this sucker down based on that alone."

Frankly, I didn't even need to go through this effort to prove that. Levy appears to understand that the limit might unintentionally hurt patients like me, since she's shared her concern that 5 nanograms is too low. Yet the bill still moved through to the senate.

Now, with some actual proof from a Colorado medical marijuana patient that this is the case, could someone curb this bill?

The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss HB 1261 today at 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Building. The hearing will offer the last time public comment will be heard about the proposal.

More from our Marijuana archive: "THC driving limits could cause more innocent people to spend months in jail, attorney says."

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.