Drugged Driving

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The Cannabis Conversation: Campaign Update

In February 2018, CDOT and nearly 20 partners representing the marijuana industry, community nonprofits, universities, local law enforcement and others launched The Cannabis Conversation to talk to Coloradans about your opinions, behaviors and habits related to marijuana and driving. The following is a snapshot of what we learned.

What We've Done

Together with our partners, over the course of 10 weeks, CDOT:

  • Heard from more than 15,000 people through our online survey
  • Hosted three public events and participated in seven partner events to gather community input
  • Conducted numerous man-on-the-street interviews of cannabis consumers and non-consumers

Prevalent Themes & Takeaways from Public Meetings

  • There is a critical need to find and establish a more scientifically-based method for determining and measuring marijuana impairment that is reflective of the complexity of cannabis and its effects on different users.
  • Methods for testing people who are suspected of being under the influence of marijuana while driving need to be improved. There are strong opinions among recreational and medical marijuana users that consumption may not always compromise safety.
  • While the public feels cannabis is not the same as alcohol in terms of impairment, use or effects, people should still think of it like alcohol when it comes to driving.
  • Dispensaries are a trusted source of information among marijuana consumers and should play a key role in educating customers about the laws and dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana.
  • Future safety campaigns should be clinical/scientific, emotional and educational.
  • Open communication among consumers about this issue is necessary in order to change social norms.

Why We're Doing This

Marijuana-involved traffic crashes and deaths continue on Colorado roads. Ongoing education and outreach campaigns in recent years have successfully raised awareness for this issue, but studies show behavior is not changing and motorists are continuing to drive after consuming cannabis.

What's Next

CDOT and its partners gained a great deal of valuable insight from talking with Coloradans, but we're not done yet. In 2019, CDOT will again be reaching out to Colorado cannabis users, non-users, the cannabis industry, business, local and statewide government, law enforcement and health care organizations. Through this process, CDOT hopes to work collectively to find solutions and reduce marijuana-impaired driving on Colorado roads.

What we hope to gain from The Cannabis Conversation:

  • Learn why some people drive under the influence of marijuana.
  • Learn what the public perceives as the dangers of driving while marijuana impaired.
  • Learn what would convince people not to drive high.
  • Understand the norms and opinions around driving high from multiple perspectives.
  • Work with Coloradans to find the best way to address the problem, and find collective, agreed-upon solutions.

This is a statewide, multi-year initiative that involves not just the public and marijuana consumers, but also industry influencers, law enforcement, local government, and other stakeholders to make sure we're seeing all angles and perspectives of the issue.

The goal? To collectively identify practical solutions that will make Colorado roads safer.

Cannabis Conversation




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


  • One-third of fatalities involved an impaired driver. That's 196 fatalities.
  • More than 17 percent of all DUI arrests from the Colorado State Patrol in 2016 involved marijuana.
  • According to a 2016 survey conducted by CDOT, 55 percent of marijuana users said they believed it was safe to drive under the influence of marijuana.

See more drugged driving statistics.

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.

Visit for discount ride codes from Lyft, a campaign partner.

Cannabis Conversation Campaign Partners

The Cannabis Conversation is always looking for more partners. If your organization or community group wants to get involved, please contact Sam Cole, CDOT Communications Manager, at [email protected].






Colorado: The Official State Web Portal