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IN THE NEWS....CDOT survey finds lots of people are driving while stoned.

CDOT survey finds lots of people are driving while stoned.

By Channel 7 News Denver

Most people know it’s illegal to drive while high on marijuana. But the Colorado Department of Transportation has found that a lot of cannabis users don’t take the law seriously, even though it can result in a DUI, or worse yet, an accident.

That information comes from CDOT’s Cannabis Conversation, a statewide survey that collected anonymous responses from 7,698 marijuana users and 3,722 non-users. The survey is still open and findings and analysis won’t be finalized until summer. But there’s a big number that already sticks out: Of the users, 69 percent said they have driven under the influence of marijuana in the past year, with 27 percent saying they drive high almost daily.

Now, there is controversy about how the state determines whether someone is high when police are doling out DUIs. THC stays in the body longer than alcohol, and it can be difficult to determine if someone is actually high when driving. The state limit for THC in blood is 5 nanograms per milliliter.

But remember: These survey numbers are self-reported. And there’s this little nugget from CDOT’s press release: “Forty percent of recreational users and 34 percent of medical users said they don’t think being under the influence of marijuana affects their ability to drive safely. About 10 percent of all users think it makes them a better driver.”

While it’s hard to determine whether someone crashed their car due to marijuana, another drug, distraction from a cell phone or simple error, CDOT found that in 2016, 51 fatalities in Colorado involved drivers who were over the limit for THC.

If you’re interested in the topic, The Denver Post published an analysis of high driving on Aug. 25, 2017, called “Exclusive: Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?”

One interesting Colorado fact from that report: “Those who tested positive for alcohol in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2015 — figures for 2016 were not available — grew 17 percent, from 129 to 151.

“By contrast, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana use jumped 145 percent — from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016.”

CDOT worked with a group of partners for its Cannabis Conversation, including dispensaries. Todd Mitchem, managing partner of Dacorum Strategies, a Denver-based government affairs and community outreach firm for the cannabis industry, stated in the CDOT release that government, industry and other partners will have to work together to combat high driving. “This isn’t something that law enforcement can solve, or something CDOT can solve, or something the marijuana industry can solve. We have to work together and be honest with each other about the challenges.”

Todd Mitchem