When Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use by approving Amendment 64 in 2012, the state entered unchartered territory. Nobody knew exactly what to expect, and in the years since, the legalization has had its benefits and its drawbacks. One of the most impactful drawbacks is driving under the influence of marijuana, which has been a consistent issue. According to a recent article from KOAA News5, the Colorado Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) has developed a new program to combat driving under the influence of marijuana.
CDOT statistics indicate that 2016 saw 77 traffic-related fatalities across the state in which drivers involved in the accidents tested positive for active THC in their bloodstream. Even more troubling is the number of marijuana users who admit to driving high, with 50% of users indicating that they have driven high within the previous 30 days. While CDOT statistics also indicate that over 90% of marijuana users know that driving under the influence of marijuana can result in a DUI charge and possible conviction, state officials are concerned with the number of individuals who still choose to use marijuana and drive.
Right now, state law allows law enforcement officials to charge an individual with a DUI if they have probable cause to believe that a person is substantially incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely due to consuming marijuana. State law also allows an officer to charge a driver with DWAI if they feel that person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely is impaired to the slightest degree. Finally, state law allows law enforcement officials to charge an individual with a DUI if that person submits to a blood test and the results of that test show the driver has more than five nanograms of THC in his or her bloodstream. Chemical testing is required when an officer has probable cause to believe your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is impaired to the slightest degree. If a driver refuses chemical testing, they will still be charged with DUI and they face more severe driver’s license consequences for refusing the chemical test.
Critics of the current approach to regulating driving under the influence of marijuana assert the claim that marijuana impairment cannot be measured in the same manner as alcohol impairment. They say that alcohol impairment has been studied for years and it is scientifically possible to predict impairment based on the amount of alcohol in one’s bloodstream. However, these critics claim that marijuana affects individuals differently. In other words, what can impair an occasional user may not impair a regular user. Additionally, they point out that remnants of marijuana chemicals like THC can remain in an individual’s blood stream long after impairing effects have worn off.
CDOT’s new approach, called The Cannabis Conversation, takes a survey-based approach to gauging marijuana users’ attitude about driving under the influence of marijuana. The survey is anonymous and aims to determine the public’s idea of what dangers are presented by driving under the influence of marijuana and why some individual marijuana choosers still choose to drive high. CDOT hopes to better understand the decisions behind driving under the influence of marijuana to develop new approaches at making the roads safer for everyone.
Legal Assistance with Marijuana DUIs
Even if you know the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana, it is still possible to make a mistake. Even if you do, you have important rights that must be protected. These charges can be intimidating, but you do not have to face them alone. If you are facing Colorado DUI charges, including those related to driving under the influence of marijuana, contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation and find out more information about what options might be available to you.
(image courtesy of Jake Blucker)