News - May 10, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

A bill that would mandate the state use blood tests and eliminate urine tests in DUI convictions for marijuana is close to becoming law, it's sponsor said Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers.

The bill, AB 135 and sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Yeager, D-Las Vegas, has jumped through all the legislative hoops necessary to become a law, except for a final Senate floor vote and the final signature from Gov. Brian Sandoval.

"I'm delighted that Senate Judiciary (Committee) passed the bill out unanimously and now it is on the Senate floor," said Yeager, who is also Clark County's chief deputy public defender.

"It is on its second reading (on the Senate floor), so my hope is that it will get a (final) vote at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. But it looks like it is going to pass the Senate and be on its way to the governor."

Yeager has sold the bill to fellow lawmakers as a "common sense" approach to DUI testing for pot. Current urine testing for pot is not reliable because it does not test for the psychoactive element that gets you high -- THC, he said.

"The science behind it (blood tests for pot) is very clear," Yeager said. "So right now, the marijuana testing, when it comes to urine testing, it only tests the inert non--psychoactive metabolite for marijuana."

In arguing for his bill, Yeager has cited a Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine study that says marijuana’s" cognitive impairment " cannot be detected in urine. Marijuana can be identified in urine but not accurately measured, according to the study.

"A urine test will tell you if someone has ingested marijuana in the past," Yeager said on Nevada Newsmakers. "But it does not tell you if the person is actually impaired at the time the testing is done."

Yet another study -- commissioned by the AAA, the nation's largest automobile club -- states that blood testing for marijuana intoxication also is not reliable.

The AAA's Safety Foundation study said it's not possible to set a blood-test threshold for THC that can reliably determine impairment. Some drivers with high levels of THC in their blood may not be impaired, especially if they are heavy pot users, the study stated. Others, who may not use marijuana often, could have relatively low levels of THC in their blood and be impaired for driving, according to the study.

The bill does not alter the state's level of impairment levels for DUI for marijuana and the change in the law won't be new for Washoe County residents. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office already uses blood tests to determine marijuana impairment, according to a story by Jenny Kane in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Nevada's law does not give motorists much wiggle room when it comes to smoking pot and driving. Nevada's legal limit for marijuana impairment is 2 nanograms of active THC in the blood.

"I'll just say, our levels and laws are very, very low. So it is virtually impossible to test positive on a blood test and not be over the allowed limits under the statute," Yeager said.