Drugged Driving

The Cannabis Conversation: Campaign Update

In 2018, CDOT introduced The Cannabis Conversation – a statewide traffic safety campaign that aimed to engage Coloradans in a meaningful discussion about a complex issue: marijuana and driving.

Colorado continues to see cannabis-involved traffic incidents that result in serious consequences. Our goal in the first year of the campaign was to gain a deeper understanding of the public’s attitudes, perspectives, trusted messengers and behaviors surrounding marijuana-impaired driving. Through a public survey, outreach at events, public meetings and focus groups, we gathered behavior and opinion data from more than 15,000 Coloradans.

So what did we learn and where are we now? Using what we learned in 2018, CDOT is now working with our partners and the public to identify solutions for how we can keep Colorado’s roads safe in an environment with prominent routine marijuana use. We’re also using what we learned to design a comprehensive public awareness campaign for 2020 aimed at reducing drug-impaired driving, which will be honed and evaluated based on feedback from the public.

Take our survey!

We need your help! CDOT just launched a survey seeking feedback on ad campaign concepts to help educate and persuade Coloradans to not drive high. Click here to participate.

Campaign Timeline and Accomplishments

The following timeline shows the activities and progress of The Cannabis Conversation since Phase 1 launched in early 2018. We’ll be sharing future opportunities to get involved with the campaign here as Phase 2 moves forward.

Click on a marker below to learn more about each activity.

“Why Do You Choose Not to Drive High?” Cannabis Conversation Visits FlyHi 420 Festival

CDOT took to the festival scene on April 20 to talk to cannabis consumers at the FlyHi 420 Festival, the state’s largest gathering of marijuana enthusiasts. As part of The Cannabis Conversation, CDOT hosted a tent at the festival and asked Coloradans, “Why do you choose not to drive high?” Click here to read more about the "Conversation Station." 

Bringing the Conversation to the Institute of Cannabis Research  

On March 25, CDOT participated in the Institute of Cannabis Research (ICR) Conference at Colorado State University-Pueblo by hosting a panel of traffic safety and data collection experts. Panelists from CDOT and the Colorado Department of Public Safety presented the state’s latest data on cannabis-impaired driving, including collection methods, applications and constraints, as well as longitudinal data on marijuana-impaired crashes, arrests, injuries and fatalities, and self-reported data on cannabis use, opinions and behaviors. Click here to learn more about the ICR.

Click here for more campaign news and updates.

Colorado's Drugged Driving Laws

Under Colorado law, drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). However, because there is no roadside device to detect THC, law enforcement officers—many trained as drug recognition experts (DREs)—base arrests on observed impairment. Even people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes can be arrested for DUI.

Consuming any amount of marijuana before driving puts you at risk for DUI, which can cost more than $13,500, in addition to jail time and loss of license.

Many Colorado law enforcement officers are trained to detect drug impairment. On average, more than 60 people are arrested each day in Colorado for DUI, including drugs, alcohol or a combination of both.

Marijuana Impairment

Like alcohol, cannabis has measurable physiological effects that impair the ability to drive and react quickly in critical situations. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies have shown marijuana impairs critical abilities needed to drive safely, including:

  • Slowed reaction time
  • Difficulties in road tracking and lane-position variability
  • Decreased, divided attention
  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Impaired executive functions, including route planning, decision-making, and risk-taking or a combination of both

Join the Conversation by downloading and sharing campaign materials!

From 2017 to 2018, the Colorado State Patrol (CPS) noted:

Note: Substance is based on trained trooper perception and may not reflect results from toxicology tests.

Swipe table to see more content

Regardless of the impairing substance, the skills needed to drive safely are negatively impacted by many drugs, including cannabis. Marijuana can impair reaction time, judgment, motor skills and perception of time and distance.

Colorado law enforcement officers are trained in the detection of impairment of alcohol and drugs, and many are specially trained drug recognition experts (DRE). These officers have the ability to detect physical signs of drug impairment. DREs are viewed as one of the most effective law enforcement tools in efforts to reduce drugged driving. From 2012 to 2014, there was a 68 percent increase in the number of drug recognition experts trained in Colorado.

If you're heading out and plan on consuming cannabis, take the time to plan ahead for a sober ride. RTD public transit, taxis, ride-hail services (and probably a friend or two) are all accessible right from your smartphone.

  • Glenn Davis
    Highway Safety Manager

  • Carol Gould
    Highway Safety Manager/State DRE Coordinator

  • Leslie Chase
    High-Visibility Enforcement

  • Kim Ferber
    Lead Project Coordinator

  • Media Contact:
    Sam Cole
    Communications Manager

Partner with The Cannabis Conversation

Is your organization interested in contributing your perspective on marijuana-impaired driving and engaging your community and connections in The Cannabis Conversation? Join our growing list of partners who are passionate about bringing awareness to this complex issue and finding potential solutions to pave the way for Colorado’s future. CDOT works closely with our partners to participate in upcoming engagement opportunities, event activations, media relations and more to create thought-provoking collaborations as part of The Cannabis Conversation. Contact Sam Cole at [email protected] for more information on ways to get involved.

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal