Mask a budtender: CDOT and MIG introduce cloth masks encouraging cannabis consumers to avoid impaired driving

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Marijuana Industry Group (MIG) collaborated this last April to educate consumers about the risks and cost of cannabis-impaired driving with an in-your-face conversation starter — budtender masks.

In partnership with Native Roots and Lightshade, CDOT and MIG distributed masks to select dispensaries with the message, “I’ll be blunt. Don’t drive high.” to remind the public about staying safe.

Impaired driving continues to be a top cause of crashes, injuries and fatalities on Colorado’s roadways. While alcohol is still the most common impairing substance, recent data shows an increasing number of fatal crashes involving impairment from cannabis. In response, CDOT is building on past successful partnerships with the cannabis industry in order to help the cannabis industry and its customers be better informed about alternatives to driving high.”

The masks are part of a broader industry education effort — CDOT and MIG are also cooperating to distribute a new series of educational materials at dispensaries, creating tools for industry training programs and working with municipalities, prevention organizations and law enforcement.

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“Colorado’s public safety work has become the model for other states that have legalized cannabis — and the safety of our patients, consumers, and communities is extremely important,” said MIG Executive Director Truman Bradley. “Cannabis consumers view representatives of cannabis businesses as trusted voices and a reliable source of information. It’s very simple: Don’t Drive High.”

While no single indicator can fully explain how cannabis consumption impacts road safety, CDOT closely monitors all available data to address impaired driving.

  • According to Colorado State Patrol arrest data, there was a 6.7% increase in cannabis-only DUI arrests in 2020 compared to 2019. More concerning, there was a 90.1% year-over-year increase in arrests for drivers impaired by cannabis and alcohol, and a 17.1% increase in impaired driving arrests involving cannabis and other substances.
  • The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes — and who were blood tested — with active Delta-9 THC above the legal limit of 5 nanograms increased from 33 in 2017 to 49 in 2019.

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  • While trace amounts of Delta-9 THC don’t necessarily equate to impairment, the substance is appearing in driver toxicology tests more often. In 2019, of the 416 fatalities where a driver was tested for Delta-9, 25% tested positive — up from 20% in 2016.
  • A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis of 60 studies concluded that cannabis use impairs the skills connected with the safe driving of a vehicle, such as tracking, muscle coordination, visual functions, and particularly, complex tasks that require multitasking. To view more research from NHTSA and partners, visit feeldifferentdrivedifferent.org/severity-of-impairment.

Through extensive public outreach to Colorado cannabis consumers as part of CDOT’s The Cannabis Conversation, consumers often voiced that industry representatives are among the most trusted messengers for cannabis education.

“Whether choosing alcohol or cannabis, it has never been easier for consumers to make responsible choices and to plan ahead,” said Shannon Fender, Director of Public Affairs for Native Roots. “We’re hopeful our ongoing partnership with CDOT will continue to bring awareness to our customers that driving while impaired on any substance is never acceptable and has serious legal and public safety consequences. We ask all our patients and customers to be thoughtful and responsible members of our shared communities - please never drive high.”

To learn more about CDOT’s new campaign and view creative materials, visit DriveHighDUI.com.