How many Coloradans are driving high? New report offers one answer
August 9, 2018
Four years after the legalization of recreational pot sales, state officials are another step closer to determining how the change is affecting the safety of Colorado's roads — but many obstacles remain.
About 73 percent of some 4,000 drivers charged with driving under the influence in 2016 tested positive for marijuana, according to a new Division of Criminal Justice report. Of those who tested positive, about half of the drivers had more than the legal limit of Delta 9 THC — marijuana's chief psychoactive compound — in their blood.
But the study also reveals a criminal justice system not prepared to deal with drugged driving. The authors of the report noted that inconsistent testing is one of the many challenges in collecting data on drug-impaired driving.
The 4,000 people screened for marijuana represent a small fraction of the 27,244 total court cases that involved at least one DUI charge filed statewide in 2016. The other defendants were never screened for drug use.
Law enforcement officers don't always test for other substances if they've already determined a driver's blood alcohol content is at or above the legal limit. It costs between $100 and $500 per blood sample to test for substances other than alcohol, according to the report. Further, suspects sometimes have to be transported to a different location before blood can be drawn for testing. During that time, the amount of THC in their blood decreases quickly.