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The legalization of marijuana has become one of the most significant social movements of our time. Proponents of legalization argue that enforcing marijuana laws costs taxpayers and law enforcement agencies significant amounts of money which could be better spent on more harmful crimes. Still, even responsible pot use isn’t without its dangers – behind the wheel, that is. Even though hard data about the impacts of cannabis on driving ability are difficult to come by, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been conducting surveys which are revealing just how widespread the problem of driving stoned is in the Centennial State. Is it time to make the penalties for driving stoned as serious as those for driving drunk?
The Colorado DOT’s 2017 survey found that 57% of Colorado residents admitted to getting behind the wheel within two hours of using marijuana, while another 73% said they feel comfortable driving after having a few drinks. The CDOT is currently conducting a new study to see if those rates have changed in light of changing public attitudes about pot use caused by legalization.
Colorado and other states with legal or decriminalized cannabis use have been searching for ways to both educate drivers about the dangers of stoned driving and create laws which can better regulate stoned driving. Studies have found that the risk of fatal accidents is much higher after 4:20 p.m. on April 20th, the unofficial “4/20” holiday which sees millions of people worldwide all toking up at the same time. A study cited by The Denver Post found that there were 77 marijuana-related crashes last year, 51 of which were caused by a driver who was found to be over the legal threshold for THC.
Legalization is great and all, but these surveys and studies reveal that drivers still don’t take stoned driving as seriously as drunk driving. Will public awareness campaigns be enough to change marijuana users’ minds about driving stoned?