EAGLE COUNTY — Colorado made history when we became the first state to legalize marijuana, but the Colorado Department of Transportation wants you to understand that driving under the influence of anything except good karma is a monumentally bad idea.
That includes the newly legalized marijuana, said Amy Ford, CDOT’s communications director.
“We did extensive research about medical and recreational marijuana users’ perceptions of marijuana’s effects on driving,” Ford said. “We heard repeatedly that people thought marijuana didn’t impact their driving ability. Some believed it actually made them a better driver.”
Impaired is illegal
It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, of course, the same as it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any other controlled substance, Ford said.
“We have been providing CDOT with a voice from the marijuana community,” said Michael Elliott, Marijuana Industry Group executive director. “We want this new industry to thrive, and the best way to do that is to ensure marijuana users and the industry understands the laws and regulations, and consumes marijuana responsibly.”
The DUI limit is 0.08 blood-alcohol limit. Get caught driving with 5 nanograms of active THC in your whole blood, and you’ll be prosecuted for a DUI. However, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment, not the level of THC, Ford said.
A DUI will cost you just over $10,000 in court costs and attorneys fees. Driving high will cost you about the same.
“As Coloradans now have more access to marijuana, we want them to be aware that law enforcement is trained to identify impairment by all categories of drugs and alcohol,” said Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Drug recognition experts are highly trained law enforcement officers who can detect the impairment of drugs and today we celebrate the graduation of more than 20 new DREs in the state.”
Using marijuana medically can also result in a DUI, Hernandez said. If a substance has impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle it is illegal for you to be driving, even if that substance is prescribed or legally acquired.
In 2012, there were 630 drivers involved in 472 motor vehicle fatalities in Colorado. Of the 630 drivers involved, 286 were tested for drugs. Nearly 27 percent of drivers tested positive, and 12 percent testing positive for cannabis.
When combining substances, there is a greater degree of impairment. If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of a sober driver. If the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober driver, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We heard repeatedly that people thought marijuana didn’t impact their driving ability. Some believed it actually made them a better driver.”
Amy Ford, Colorado Department of Transportation