Driving While High in Colorado: Stats and the Law

mcdivitt-marijuana-dui-coloradoColorado Pot DUI Statistics for 2014

It’s been over a year now since Colorado has allowed for the sale of recreational marijuana. However, with the legalization of marijuana, the issue of impaired driving became concerning for the State. According to the Colorado State Patrol, which released its data regarding impaired drivers for 2014, of the more than 5,500 drug and alcohol related tickets, 345 of them involved only marijuana. Or, in other words, one in every 16 tickets for DUI or DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) involved marijuana. 674 impaired driving citations involved marijuana either alone or with other intoxicants—that’s 12.2 percent!  For more information on this read the Gazette’s article.

Colorado Law and Lingering Effects

Under Colorado law, drivers with more than five nanograms of THC, more specifically delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive component of marijuana), in their bloodstream are legally presumed to be impaired. Therefore, the driver can be cited for a DUI. According to the Gazette, a study showed that 21 percent of recreational marijuana users didn’t know that they could get a ticket for driving high!

Additionally, more than half of those who were part of the study drove within two hours after smoking or using marijuana. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association (NHTSA), while most marijuana smokers are “high” for approximately 2 hours, it may take 3-5 hours for most behavioral and physiological effects of marijuana to wear off. Some investigators have even stated that residual effects of certain behaviors, such as “complex divided attention tasks,” can last for up to 24 hours. A common divided attention task is driving. For more information on how marijuana affects performance and driving, check out the NHSTA link above.

Furthermore, it is difficult to know how much marijuana consumption actually equals five nanograms of THC. Unlike alcohol, marijuana does not metabolize at a predictable rate. Given those facts, it is difficult for an individual to judge his or her own level of impairment. Thus, any amount of consumption puts a user at risk of driving impaired.

Some More Interesting Information

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has a lot of information regarding marijuana and driving. This includes information that many Colorado law enforcement officers are trained to detect impairment caused by drugs. They have received what is called Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), and many agencies have specially trained Drug Recognition Experts.

The Team at McDivitt reminds everyone to think about the consequences of driving while high and reminds everyone to never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or getting high.

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