Nearly 70 percent of cannabis consumers said they've driven high in the past year
Preliminary data from CDOT's Cannabis Conversationshows that 69 percent of cannabis consumers have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the past year -- with 27 percent admitting they drive high almost daily. Forty percent of recreational users and 34 percent of medical users said they don't think being under the influence of marijuana affects their ability to drive safely. About 10 percent of all users think it makes them a better driver.
As part of a statewide initiative to gather feedback about marijuana-impaired driving, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) collected survey responses from more than 11,000 anonymous marijuana users and non-users who shared their opinions, habits and behaviors on the topic.
"What this information tells us is that Colorado still has a lot of work to do in order to change behavior," said Sam Cole, CDOT Communications Manager. "CDOT has been successful in raising awareness about the laws and consequences of driving high, but now our big focus is on how we can turn that awareness into action and increase safety on our roadways."
Colorado continues to see marijuana-involved traffic crashes that result in serious consequences. In 2016, there were 51 fatalities that involved a driver with active THC in their blood above 5 nanograms, the legal limit.
In February, CDOT, together with partners across the state representing the marijuana industry, community nonprofits, universities, law enforcement and others, launched The Cannabis Conversationto gain a better understanding of public perceptions, social norms and behavior patterns surrounding marijuana use and driving. CDOT opened an online survey as part of this research, as well as conducted a series of public meetings, events and interviews to talk directly with people in the community.
"This is a complex issue, evidenced in the fact that we're seeing quite a few mixed messages from our outreach," said Cole. "While forty percent of recreational users said they don't think being under the influence of marijuana affects their ability to drive safely, almost half of all survey participants said driving under the influence of marijuana puts people in danger."
Other key findings from the survey include:
- More than two-thirds (69 percent) of all respondents know that if you drive high, you can get a DUI.
- Half of all cannabis users surveyed say they consume less cannabis when they know they will need to drive.
- Of people who have consumed marijuana within the last year, 56 percent say they drive themselves to get around when they're under the influence of marijuana. Walking, getting a ride from someone sober and using Uber or Lyft were the next most common ways people get around when high.
- Among non-users, 35 percent say they have been a passenger with a driver who is under the influence of marijuana.
Prevalent issues that rose to the top during CDOT's public meetings and in-person interviews include the need for better research and testing for measuring marijuana impairment. Participants also agreed that dispensaries are a trusted source of information and should play a key role in educating marijuana consumers about the laws and dangers of driving high.
"This isn't something that law enforcement can solve, or something CDOT can solve, or something the marijuana industry can solve. We have to work together and be honest with each other about the challenges," said Todd Mitchem, managing partner of Dacorum Strategies, a Denver-based government affairs and community outreach firm for the cannabis industry that has partnered with CDOT on this campaign. "It's important to figure this out together and I think we're on the right path by doing things like this that keep an open dialogue among the public, the industry and government. We must commit as a culture to working together and holding each other accountable regarding impaired driving," added Mitchem.
CDOT plans to use what it learns in The Cannabis Conversationto develop more effective education and awareness campaigns in the future that will help curb marijuana-impaired driving and improve safety on Colorado's roads.
The survey will remain open through early summer, so the public still has time to voice their opinion by visiting ColoradoCannabisConvo.com. These are preliminary results, and a comprehensive report will be available in summer 2018.