Marijuana use has brought a “new era of impaired driving” to Colorado, but it’s too early to understand the impact.
Beginning in January 2014, Colorado State Patrol began tracking marijuana-related citations in an effort to identify trends. The data showed a 1.3 percent decrease from 2014 to 2015 for DUI and DUID citations involving marijuana.
Out of 4,546 citations issued for DUI/DUID in 2015, there were 347 in which marijuana was the sole indicator, and 665 instances where marijuana was one of the indicators.
But a mere two years of data collection doesn’t point to a conclusion.
“From those numbers, we know very little. They were released to provide insight,” CSP Trooper Josh Lewis said. “We don’t know if we’re going to start seeing an increase or a decrease. When we get two, three, four more years of data, we’ll find those first two years could be very different. We don’t know what way it will be trending.”
Colorado State Patrol has trained every trooper, corporal and sergeant in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and has 64 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
“Indicators we look for are signs of impairment in any way: slow speech, mimicking the effects of marijuana; the smell of it; or if there is visible paraphernalia,” said Capt. Adrian Driscoll with the Durango office. Driscoll said the State Patrol began tracking marijuana-specific citations more efficiently after the passage of Amendment 64 legalized the private use, home-growing and limited possession of marijuana.
Data systems for La Plata County and others in the region do not identify citations for driving specifically under the influence of marijuana. The same charge code identifies DUIs involving alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, which leaves only anecdotal evidence regarding local marijuana DUIs, 6th Judicial District Attorney Todd Risberg told The Durango Herald in July.
Lewis said the same was true for the state’s crime database, which is why the CSP began separating the incidents two years ago.
“We hope people will get educated that driving under the influence of marijuana or any other narcotic has the same consequence as alcohol,” he said. “You can get a DUI, jail time and fines for any sort of crashes that could occur as a result.”
Durango Police Department did not have local data readily available.