Today is April 20, 2018. This day acts as an international counterculture holiday, where people gather to celebrate and consume marijuana. Denver is no exception. Given the influx of visitors to downtown Denver today, our Denver car crash lawyers found it appropriate to highlight important information for our readers.
The Etiology of 420
There are many stories regarding the etiology of 420. Some say it denotes the number of active chemicals in marijuana. Others argue 420 has something to do with Adolph Hitler’s birthday. There are some people who argue it originates from a police code. As evidenced by the variety of antidotes, the origin of the term 420 has long been obscured by hazy memories.
The following is the real story of the etiology of 420. In 1971, five high school students in San Rafael, California, devised a plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop based on a treasure map made by the grower. The boys designated the Louis Pasteur statute on the grounds of their high school as their meeting place and 4:20 p.m. as their meeting time. They referred to this plan with the phrase “4:20 Louis.” Several failed attempts at locating the hidden crop eventually lead to the boys shortening the phrase to “4:20,” which ultimately evolved into a code word used to mean smoking marijuana in general.
Within a few years, the term “420” had spread throughout San Rafael and was cropping up elsewhere throughout California. By the 1990s, it had penetrated other parts of the United States and Canada. This limited background is sufficient for now.
Denver’s 420 Marijuana Festival
On November 6, 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, outlining a statewide drug policy for cannabis and making it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to use or possess marijuana for any purpose. The measure passed along with a similar law in Washington, marking an electoral first, not only for America, but for the world. As of the end of 2017, 176 of Colorado’s 272 municipalities have opted to prohibit retail marijuana activity within their boundaries.
As one of the first two states to legalize marijuana, Denver’s 420 marijuana festival (the “Mile High 420 Festival”) draws advocates from around the world. Each year, over 50,000 people meet at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver to rejoice in the cannabis culture and celebrate the future of what continues to be a very prosperous industry in this State. The event is the latest incarnation of Denver’s 420 marijuana festival. New organizer, Euflora, has made a point to differentiate itself from past productions that resulted in substantial violations of city requirements, including noise complaints, untimely trash removal, inadequate security staff, unlicensed food vendors, and street closures. Denver required many changes for the organizers to host this year’s festivities.
The 100% free festival begins at 10:00 a.m. and continues until 7:00 p.m. with headline entertainment including Lil Wayne, Lil Jon, Inner Circle, the Wailers, and Whitewater Ramble. In addition to headliners, the festival will feature a stage with Colorado-centric bands as well as comedy acts the organizers have denoted as “420 Funny.”
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
Given the influx of visitors this weekend, the Denver car crash lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, wanted to discuss the impact of marijuana use on driving. It is now widely understood a person’s level of intoxication is affected by various factors, including plant strain, cultivation technique, mode of harvest, and route of ingestion. As it relates to strain, for example, research has shown the Indica strain is used to relieve anxiety, pain, and cause sedation, which would lead to drowsiness. Sativa strains, on the other hand, produce an uplifting and cerebral high that is typically very energizing and stimulating.
Some scientists believe drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and compensate by slowing down on increasing effort. According to their research, marijuana’s adverse effects may appear relatively small. Against this backdrop, the reality is marijuana disrupts coordination, judgment, perception and reaction time. The impairment manifests itself in the ability for a driver to maintain a steady lateral position on the road. Without question, driving while under the influence of marijuana increases the risks of car crashes.
Amendment 64 did not legalize driving high. To the contrary, Colorado continues to criminalize the operation of any vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. With the potential for thousands of drivers making their way into downtown Denver today, police are taking extra measures to ensure the safety of all citizens.
Police Detection of Marijuana
If an officer has reasonable suspicion a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he can request the driver submit to a field sobriety test and/or breathalyzer test. If, during the field sobriety test, the driver sways, stumbles, and/or trips, of if the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit, the officer will likely have probable cause to arrest the driver for driving under the influence of alcohol.
This determination is not as easy with marijuana. According to John Lewis, public information officer for the Colorado State Patrol, there are some tell-tale signs that tend to indicate an individual may have been smoking marijuana. “Are their eyes bloodshot? Watery? Do they have trouble responding in a normal amount of time? Is there an odor of marijuana or something else going on?” Lewis said. According to Lewis, “these signs may be sufficient to establish a reasonable suspicion a person is driving under the influence of marijuana.”
When a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana, officers can administer roadside tests. Some of the tests for marijuana and alcohol impairment are similar. For instance, an officer may conduct a Romberg test – maintaining balance with eyes closed – to gauge a driver’s loss of motor coordination. Alternatively, an officer may ask a driver to estimate 30 seconds in his head to gauge the internal clock. Failing this test can be an indicator of stimulant or depressant use.
Colorado has certified more Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) officers to differentiate between drivers who are high on marijuana and drivers who are impaired by alcohol. DRE officers are requested once a street officer suspects a driver is under the influence of marijuana after the roadside test. In Colorado, if an officer has probable cause to support an arrest and breathalyzer, the officer may also request the driver submit to drug testing. If the driver refuses the blood draw, the state will suspend his license for an entire year. Drivers are assumed to be impaired if blood tests show a level of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – of 5 or more nanograms per milliliter.
It is important for you to also remember Colorado has defined “vehicle” as any “device that is capable of moving itself, or of being moved, from place to place upon wheels or endless tracks.” Bicycles are therefore considered vehicles in the eyes of the law and stoned cyclists are subject to the same criminal penalties as motorists, including jail time and fines.
Denver Car Crash Lawyers
Driving under the influence of marijuana continues to be a serious problem in Colorado. There is no doubt operating a 2-ton machine requires alertness. Our Denver car crash lawyers cannot help but focus on the dangerous effects of marijuana as they relate to operating a motor vehicle.
Driving high exposes the population to liability in a civil case involving a personal injury. Evidence of intoxication can lay a foundation for a defense of contributory negligence in the event a driver is injured after a Denver car crash. Thus, the Denver car crash lawyers at Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, implore people to be cognizant of their level of intoxication and refrain from operating a motor vehicle if marijuana is in their system.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.