How high is too high? 5 years after legalization, Colorado struggles to test marijuana impairment for drivers

As more Coloradoans smoke marijuana, legislators and law enforcement officials have struggled to develop sobriety tests that accurately determine when someone is too high to drive. 
Shutterstock / Stock photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In 2014, when recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado, Matt Karzen, an assistant district attorney in Routt County at the time, noticed a lot of criminal cases coming to his office involving drivers arrested on suspicion of driving stoned. 

It was the first time such cases had gone through local justice system under the laxer laws, and he was not sure how they would play out in court. So, his office brought a case in front of a jury as a sort of litmus test for convicting high drivers.  

The case involved a man pulled over in Steamboat Springs for having a dirty windshield. It started as a routine traffic stop for driving with obstructed vision, but law enforcement officials noticed the man behaving strangely. Resulting tests showed he did not have alcohol in his system, but he was over the legal limit for marijuana. 

When jurors reviewed body camera footage and reports from law enforcement, they weren’t convinced the tests proved beyond a reasonable doubt the man was impaired.  

“The guy was acquitted in about five minutes,” Karzen said. 

As marijuana becomes more widely used across the state, much uncertainty remains about how the drug impairs the body and at what point someone becomes too high to drive. A lack of clarity and research has made it difficult for law enforcement officials to test for marijuana impairment during traffic stops and for the courts to convict people accused of driving high. 

According to current state law, people can be prosecuted for driving under the influence if their blood contains more than 5 nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the cannabinoid in marijuana that causes its coveted psychoactive effects.

But marijuana users, particularly those who partake regularly for medicinal purposes, worry they would test over the legal limit, even when they are not impaired. 

Trends in marijuana use

A recent report from the New York Times investigated the legacy of the last five years of legal marijuana in the state and found, more than anything, the drug has become a more commonly accepted part of life for Coloradoans. 

About twice as many residents smoke marijuana compared to the rest of Americans.

During a June session of the Steamboat Springs Police Department’s Citizens Academy, which teaches the public about the work of local law enforcement, officers said they have spoken with many people who think it is OK to drive stoned. This worried officer Lisa Wilson, who does not want a lower perceived risk to cause accidents.

As she explained, “If you feel different, you drive different.”

According to a 2018 study from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the number of highway deaths involving drivers with marijuana in their system has nearly doubled since legalization, with 75 deaths in 2014 and 139 in 2017. 

But, the number of drivers involved in a fatal crash who tested over the legal limit for marijuana — that 5-nanogram threshold — has decreased sharply in recent years. In 2017, 35 drivers in such accidents were over the legal limit, down from 52 in 2016.

As the study advises, “The presence of a cannabinoid does not necessarily indicate recent use of marijuana or impairment.”

Cannabinoids have a stubborn way of sticking around in people’s fat cells, meaning someone could test positive for the drug, even over the legal limit, days or weeks after they smoked. This is especially true for frequent users.

“People can be heavily saturated with THC in their system and not be under the influence,” Karzen said.

Concerns among marijuana users

Larisa Bolivar admits to using marijuana almost every day. The executive director of the Cannabis Consumer Coalition, based in Denver, Bolivar has been an advocate for the drug long before it became legal. 

The Washington Post, in a 2014 article, called her “one of the city’s most well-known proponents of decriminalizing marijuana nationally.” In 2004, she visited Steamboat to advocate for a cancer patient who was facing charges for using medical marijuana, which was legal at the time. 

Fifteen years later, she is seeing a similar, enforcement-heavy approach to nabbing people suspected of driving high, despite a lack of certainty for testing impairment. 

As Bolivar explained, many marijuana users, especially those consuming it daily and at higher doses for pain management or other medicinal purposes, will have large amounts of THC in their blood but not feel or act impaired. 

“I haven’t consumed (marijuana) today, but I can guarantee you I have more than 5 nanograms in my system,” she said. 

As someone who drives on a regular basis, Bolivar is always concerned she could be cited for a DUI even if she does not feel or act impaired.  

“That is a very scary thought, and it’s totally unfair,” she said. 

Sobriety tests for marijuana

Local law enforcement officials tend to agree with people like Bolivar, arguing the current science on marijuana impairment often does not reflect reality. Nor do they see it as a new issue.

“This challenge has been around as long as cannabis has been consumed,” Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said of measuring a person’s intoxication.

As he explained, field sobriety tests for alcohol have been researched and standardized over decades. Dating back to 1977, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has honed the tests to such an extent that recent studies report accuracy of 91% to 94%.

“We have a lot of experience with drunk drivers,” Christensen said. “We know what that person looks like, and you can smell it.”

Much less researched and certain are sobriety tests for marijuana. Law enforcement officials usually employ two methods to test for any kind of drug impairment. One way is to ask the driver to undergo a blood test to determine if they are over the 5-nanogram limit. 

Some agencies also have drug recognition experts who have been trained to evaluate a driver for substance impairment. Several local troopers with Colorado State Patrol have the certification and are able to assist other law enforcement officials with roadside sobriety tests specific to drugs. Many of the criteria for impairment seem similar to alcohol, such as the one-leg-stand test. 

Drug recognition experts use this form to determine if someone is under the influence of substances other than alcohol.
Source: Drug recognition expert seven-day instruction course

Hugh Carey / hcarey@summitdaily.com

Other considerations, such as redness in the eyes, could be the result of other, non-drug related conditions, like allergies or irritation.

“There is no go-to tool that is considered reliable across the board to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana,” Karzen said. “Right now, we’re just stuck with body camera footage and an officer’s assessment.”

Most such cases result in a plea deal, according to Karzen. Drivers usually plead guilty to driving while ability impaired, or DWAI, which is a traffic infraction — not a crime. It typically results in a fine and the revoked driving privileges for 90 days, a laxer sentence than for DUI offenses. 

In many instances, people suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana also have an illegal amount of alcohol in their system, according to Karzen. If that is the case, prosecutors typically pursue a DUI conviction solely for alcohol because jurors feel better-versed at recognizing when someone is drunk.

Need for new tests and laws

What all of this points to is a need for more accurate measures of marijuana impairment, something state lawmakers are trying to accomplish through legislation. 

One bill proposed during the 2019 Legislation Session would have thrown out the 5-nanogram threshold and given law enforcement full discretion in determining impairment through field sobriety as well as blood tests. 

It faced strong backlash before lawmakers postponed it indefinitely in February. 

Complicating the issue is the fact that marijuana is still federally illegal, so conducting accurate, legal research on how the drug affects the body has proven difficult. 

With no changes for the foreseeable future, Karzen has been advising prosecutors in his office to be prudent in pursuing DUI convictions for marijuana, and to limit convictions to cases in which people showed obvious signs of impairment.

 “I’m very uncomfortable proceeding with a criminal prosecution on impaired driving based only on the 5-nanogram limit,” he said. 

For an example, he alluded to a scene in the cult classic, “Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke,” in which the two, red-eyed stoners get pulled over after smoking a joint the size of a salami.

Karzen chuckled at using such a reference, but those clear indications — poor driving, memory loss, marijuana smoke billowing from the windows — “those are what our prosecutors look for,” he said. 

Christensen’s officers have a similar policy.

“If drivers don’t demonstrate any signs of impairment, we don’t take any action,” he said.

Regardless of the lack of clarity on marijuana impairment, people still have an obligation to drive sober.

“There is no excuse to drive impaired in any way,” Christensen said. https://www.summitdaily.com/news/how-high-is-too-high-5-years-after-legalization-colorado-struggles-to-test-marijuana-impairment-for-drivers/

Woman flees on foot after traffic stop by police, faces numerous charges including OUI alcohol and drugs

6-8-19 — Monson— A 31-year-old Connecticut woman, who fled police on Route 32 early Saturday after she was stopped on Route 32 for speeding, faces numerous charges including operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. (Monson police / Facebook)
6-8-19 — Monson— A 31-year-old Connecticut woman, who fled police on Route 32 early Saturday after she was stopped on Route 32 for speeding, faces numerous charges including operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. (Monson police / Facebook)

MONSON — A 31-year-old Connecticut woman, who fled police on Route 32 early Saturday after she was stopped on Route 32 for speeding, faces numerous charges including operating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The incident began about 1 a.m. when Officer Tyler Wilk saw the suspect, southbound, speeding towards the downtown area, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page.

Western Mass News reported the woman got out of her vehicle after the stop and fled on foot. A state trooper was summoned to help for the suspect and she was found a short time later.

Police have not yet released the woman’s name. She is from Wilmington, Conn.

She was charged with drunken driving (2nd offense), operating under the include of drugs, operating with a suspended license (subsequent offense), negligent operation, open container of alcohol in motor vehicle, speeding, possession of heroin (subsequent offense), possession of a Class E drug and resisting arrest.

Police were assisted by a Palmer officer trained in the recognition of drug impairment. Western Mass News is television partner to The Republican. https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/06/connecticut-woman-flees-on-foot-after-traffic-stop-by-monson-police-faces-numerous-charges-including-oui-alcohol-and-drugs.html

Users of illegal ‘magical mushrooms’ could get a pass in Oakland

The city council will vote June 4 whether to bar police from enforcing cracking down on psychedelic plants

Oakland City Hall is photographed in Oakland Dec. 1, 2015.

OAKLAND — Oakland could become the second city in the nation to allow the use of psilocybin mushrooms — also known as “magic mushrooms” — following in Denver’s footsteps.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider approving a resolution barring police from enforcing laws banning the use of “entheogenic” — or psychoactive — plants, which include psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca and peyote.

The proposed resolution stems from a movement at the state level to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, which suffered a setback when a measure to accomplish that goal didn’t make it to California’s 2018 ballot. Activists are gathering signatures now to put a measure on the Oregon state ballot next year to legalize the medical use of psilocybin.

Three of the four council members who make up Oakland’s public safety committee voted Tuesday to move the resolution to the full council for a vote. Supporters of the effort packed City Hall, and around 60 people — many of them psychiatrists — testified to the benefits of entheogenic plants.

“I’ve seen first-hand how these plants can heal individuals, and I really want to emphasize that these plants can also heal a community,” said Gary Kono, a retired surgeon who co-founded  Decriminalize Nature Oakland, an activist group leading the effort to legalize entheogenic plants in the city.

Council member Noel Gallo, who brought the resolution forward, said in his proposal that allowing the use of entheogenic plants would remove them from their underground status and “empower communities to share knowledge and continue building an above-ground infrastructure around entheogens.”

Oakland, he added in his proposal, “has a unique opportunity to lead by example, and guide the nationwide conversation.”

The resolution would not apply to synthetic drugs such as LSD or Ecstasy.

Larry Norris of Decriminalize Nature Oakland said in an interview that the initiatives in Oregon and Denver prompted the group to push for the resolution. It started discussing the proposal in December and pitched it to Gallo earlier this year.

Several members of Decriminalize Nature Oakland told council members of personal “life-changing” experiences that resulted from using the drugs and of how other cultures have used them for centuries to be closer to nature. Little was said at the meeting of people just using them for recreation.

“Our communities have been using natural plant medicines as they are indigenous to communities of color; they’ve been using them for thousands of years,” said Amber Senter, a local cannabis entrepreneur who is also part of Decriminalize Nature Oakland.

Council member Loren Taylor abstained from the vote Tuesday, saying although he recognizes that the drugs can benefit people in certain settings, he is concerned they also can be used unsafely and hopes to see an education effort warning people of the risks.

“It’s a matter of how we deploy it and make sure it’s not something that becomes a fad with our kids and potentially used in schools,” Taylor said, adding he’s also worried about people driving under the influence of entheogenic plants.

Oakland police officials at Tuesday’s meeting didn’t weigh in on the proposal, but noted there’s been only 19 cases over the past five years in which they confiscated a substance believed to be psilocybin mushrooms.

Several speakers mentioned a study released by Johns Hopkins University last year that suggested psilocybin could be used to treat depression and anxiety and even help people quit smoking, according to the New York Times. Bestselling author and Berkeley resident Michael Pollan’s recent book, “How to Change Your Mind,” makes the case that psychedelic drugs can be effective therapy tools, especially for people trying to recover from drug addiction. https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/05/29/after-denver-legalized-magic-mushrooms-oakland-could-be-next/

Study: Michigan medical marijuana users are driving while high

Local officials are beginning to decide if they want medical marijuana businesses in their communities before the state starts giving out licenses next year. Wochit

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(Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE

More than half of the medical marijuana users in Michigan have driven under the influence of the drug, creating a potential for car crashes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

The study, which surveyed 790 of the state’s medical marijuana patients, revealed that:

  • 56 percent reported driving within two hours of using marijuana.
  • 51 percent aid they drove while  a “little high.”
  • 21 percent reported driving while “very high.”

The findings were published Wednesday in the “Drug & Alcohol Dependence” journal. 

“When you are intoxicated with marijuana or you have marijuana actively in your system it can affect things like your coordination and your reaction time,” said the study’s lead author Erin Bonar, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “We know it can take several hours for its effects to wear off.”

She added: “There is a low perceived risk about driving after using marijuana, but we want people to know that they should ideally wait several hours to operate a vehicle after using cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical use or not,” Bonar said. “The safest strategy is to not drive at all on the day you used marijuana.”

Erin Bonar , University of Michigan psychology professor and lead author of a new study on medical marijuana users.

Erin Bonar , University of Michigan psychology professor and lead author of a new study on medical marijuana users. (Photo: Daryl Marshke, UM Photography,D.Marshke)

About 270,000 people in Michigan have permission to use medical marijuana. Only California has more medical marijuana users, roughly 916,000, according to statistics.

Read more:

Too high to drive? Depends where you get pulled over

Legal marijuana in Mich.: What you need to know

Six mid-Michigan towns have banned weed businesses

And now that recreational use of marijuana has been approved by the state’s voters, the potential for high drivers and any dangers they may pose is greater. 

“We believe more research is needed to inform a larger public education effort that will help individuals understand the risks for themselves, and others, of driving while under the influence of cannabis,” Bonar said. “It is especially needed during this time of rapid policy change as many states are determining how to manage marijuana legalization. We also need clearer guidelines about marijuana dosing and side effects with an understanding of how individual differences in things like sex and body weight interact as well.” 

In its study, the U-M team surveyed Michigan adults who were seeking medical marijuana certification for chronic pain in 2014 and 2015. The researchers asked about respondents’ driving habits for the past six months.

Marijuana Use Suspected in Fatal Colorado Crash

The Colorado State Patrol says a woman killed in a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 70 is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana at the time.

KMGH-TV reported that the crash occurred Monday afternoon near Genesee, west of Denver, and closed the eastbound lanes and one lane of the westbound lanes of the highway for several hours.

The patrol says the crash happened when the 21-year-old woman driving the car failed to negotiate a right curve, causing the vehicle to go off the left side of the roadway. The driver then over-corrected and the vehicle rolled.

Troopers say the victim was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. A second person in the car was transported to the hospital with minor injuries.

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2018/09/13/501052.htm

Mixed findings on Colorado marijuana, traffic deaths

Colorado Marijuana Holiday

The number of highway deaths involving Colorado drivers who had marijuana in their system grew again in 2017, a new state study shows.

At the same time, traffic fatalities in which drivers had enough marijuana in their bloodstream to be deemed legally impaired dropped sharply, from 52 in 2016 to 35 last year.

The reason for this seeming contradiction: Marijuana can remain in the bloodstream for weeks, so a positive blood test may not mean a driver was stoned at the time of a deadly crash.

As the Colorado Department of Transportation study notes, “The presence of a cannabinoid does not necessarily indicate recent use of marijuana or impairment.”

Overall, the number of fatalities involving positive tests for marijuana has nearly doubled since recreational legalization in 2014, from 75 that year to 125 in 2016 and 139 last year.

Colorado law specifies that drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a milliliter of their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence of marijuana.

A striking finding in the new study was the death toll involving people driving around with a cocktail of drugs in their bodies. In one year, deaths where drivers tested positive for cannabis, any alcohol and other drugs tripled — from eight in 2016 to 25 last year.

The report also found that drunken driving deaths had increased again. Twenty-six percent of those killed in crashes, or 171 people, had blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater, Colorado’s drunken driving limit, compared to 161 in 2016 and 151 in 2015.

Meanwhile, traffic deaths generally continued to increase on state roads, going from 546 in 2015 to 608 in 2016 and spiking to 648 last year.

CDOT spokesman Sam Cole said the department considers the number of deaths in which the driver was marijuana-impaired under state law to be the most reliable indicator of its impact on the highways.

By that measure, marijuana-related deaths are clearly down.

“Presence does not indicate impairment,” he said. At the same time, “two years does not make a trend.”

Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, welcomed the state finding that marijuana-impaired highway deaths declined last year.

She added that the industry intends to keep campaigning against smoking and driving.

“We don’t think our job is done,” she said.

Henny Lasley heads Smart Colorado, a group concerned about the effects of legalization on children.

She worries that the latest highway death statistics will be used to loosen state regulations and promote public consumption of marijuana products.

First, “The science of impairment is lacking,” she said.

“More concerning is why people are combining” marijuana, alcohol and other drugs, she said. “The combination is very concerning.”

Cole agrees.

Before fatal drug-related crashes, “drivers do tend to combine,” he said. “When you combine, it will amplify your impairment.”

https://gazette.com/news/state-colorado-traffic-deaths-involving-marijuana-rise-again/article_ec6a8f4c-a722-11e8-9c81-17b5312abb33.html

Denver now cracking down on marijuana tour buses

Undercover Denver police officers stopped two buses on Friday. Officers cited 31 people who were smoking during the ride on My420 and Colorado Cannabis tour buses.

The city of Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses said this week that marijuana tour buses are operating illegally, despite the drug’s legality in Colorado.

Undercover Denver police officers stopped two buses on Friday. Officers cited 31 people who were smoking during the ride on My420 and Colorado Cannabis tour buses.

One person was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.

Eric Escudero with the Department of Excise and Licenses told 9NEWS his office has sent letters to the tour companies warning them that they are not operating within the law.

Escudero also said there’s also no legal way under current rules for these tours to become legal.

Jay Casillas, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, said enforcement of the laws on pot buses was complaint-driven. He did not say how many complaints they’ve received.

According to its website, My 420 Tours is “at the forefront of cannabis tourism, offering visitors a glimpse into the cutting-edge world of cannabis legalization and marijuana news in Colorado and beyond.”

Its site also says the company has been around since 2013 and offers not just tours, but cannabis vacations, complete with “420-friendly hotels” with prices that start at $1,295.

Colorado Cannabis tours range from $29 to $99. As of this writing, the website appeared to still be accepting reservations.

https://www.9news.com/article/news/crime/denver-now-cracking-down-on-marijuana-tour-buses/73-565120320

Alexa Curtin Charged With Driving Under Influence Of A Drug

Alexa Curtin was reportedly charged recently with driving under the influence of a drug. Court records show that The Real Housewives of Orange County star Lynne Curtin’s daughter Alexa, who has had various legal issues, was charged with allegedly driving under the influence on June 6, 2017. Now she’s been charged with that — and was also cited for driving without a valid driver license.

Law enforcement sources told The Blast that Costa Mesa police officers were called to the scene of an accident at around 2:45 PM on that day in June. Insiders claimed to the website that Alexa had crashed her car and cops came to investigate.

While on the scene, the police believed that Alexa, who had been driving the car, appeared to be under the influence. “Police had her perform a field sobriety test, which we’re told she failed,” The Blast reported.

Alexa submitted to a blood test by police and the results came back allegedly showing a cocktail of prescription drugs, including Clonazepam (aka Klonopin) and opioids.

The RHOC wild child was officially charged on April 18 in Orange County Court and an arraignment has been set for June.

https://radaronline.com/exclusives/2018/04/rhoc-daughter-alexa-curtin-charged-with-driving-under-influence/

CDOT Has ‘The Cannabis Conversation’ At Community Open House

DENVER – People talk about pot in Colorado every day. Whether they’re buying it, using it, or getting a whiff of it while cruising down the road.

cdot cannabis conversation 10pkg transfer frame 0 CDOT Has The Cannabis Conversation At Community Open House

But a cannabis conversation inside a Denver recreation center Wednesday was a bit different.

The subject – driving high. It’s a big problem in our state and the reason why the Colorado Department of Transportation recently launched their multi-year safety campaign “The Cannabis Conversation.”

cdot cannabis conversation 10pkg transfer frame 330 CDOT Has The Cannabis Conversation At Community Open House

They want to talk with the public about the dangers of driving high, and why some think it’s okay to get behind the wheel while under the influence of marijuana.

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“For me, I feel like sometimes using cannabis doesn’t make me impaired, it actually makes me focused,” Alex Rubin, a regular cannabis consumer, said.

Rubin said he attended CDOT’s open house meeting at the Montclair Recreation Center “to just be a little more informed.” He told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann he uses cannabis every day and knows his limits.

As for if he’s ever used and then gotten behind the wheel…

“I know if I feel more stoney or more cloudy, I know that I probably should be doing anything cognitive,” Rubin explained. “But that doesn’t’ mean I should never use and then get under the wheel.”

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But that is exactly what some marijuana companies, health groups and especially Colorado State Patrol – all who had Q & A booths at the meeting – say drivers shouldn’t do.

“It is not okay to drive a motor vehicle if you’re utilizing marijuana,” CSP Sgt. Rob Madden said to the small group who attended the meeting.

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“They’re saying that any form of cannabis consumption is not okay, and if you’re using cannabis, you should never drive or do anything,” he said. “I think that is a little bit skewed in some ways for people who use cannabis every day.”

Rubin added that cannabis affects everyone differently, especially in the various ways it can be consumed. He said he is happy CDOT has launched a conversation around marijuana, but he thinks the focus should be on defining impairment.

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(credit: CBS)

“Where is that bar? Where is that line? I think an educational campaign from people or dispensaries that are selling the products is an important way to do it,” he said.

CDOT is continuing ‘The Cannabis Conversation’ in Fort Collins on Tuesday, March 27.

For more details and to take an online survey to weigh in on the issue, visit: https://www.codot.gov/safety/alcohol-and-impaired-driving/druggeddriving.

CDOT Has ‘The Cannabis Conversation’ At Community Open House

Group trying to figure out role of pot in impaired-driving accidents

Group trying to figure out role of pot in impaired-driving accidents

A panel of experts from the cannabis, public safety and transportation industries gathered at Colorado State University-Pueblo Thursday to discuss misconceptions and discuss the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving.

The discussion was the first public happening of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new public safety campaign called The Cannabis Conversation, which is seeking the input of Coloradans to identify solutions to a problem that contributed to 77 fatal car wrecks in 2016 alone.

According to CDOT Communications Manager Sam Cole, the department previously orchestrated ad campaigns to get the word out about cannabis-impaired driving, which he said were successful in notifying the public of the dangers and legal repercussions of driving under the influence of marijuana but seemingly did little to curb citizens’ behavior.

 So instead of another ad campaign to speak to cannabis users, CDOT decided to host The Cannabis Conversation in order to facilitate a conversation in which Coloradans could weigh in.

Some of the primary topics discussed at the meeting included how marijuana consumption effects drivers, current law enforcement methods for detecting drugged driving, and ongoing research into tools that measure impairment.

All of the panelists agreed that marijuana consumption can cause impairment that makes it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle, but noted that because marijuana has not been researched as extensively as other impairment-causing drugs, such as alcohol, it is unclear to what extent.

The lack of research is attributable to the relatively new status of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, and panelist Kristi Kelly, the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said a number of research studies on marijuana impairment are being conducted in the Centennial State.

Cole expressed that though research has not yet identified the extent to which marijuana causes driving impairment, studies have shown that being under the influence of marijuana does impact perceptions of distance, speed and time.

“We would all agree that at a certain level, yes, marijuana does impair your ability to drive,” Cole said.

“I think where everything gets squishy is in the research addressing at what level. Does somebody have to smoke a whole joint? Eat a whole edible? Or would they be fine just having a hit or two off a joint and they can still drive?

“Science just really hasn’t met us there, so we’re still having this discussion, both in the scientific and research community. Meanwhile, CDOT is really digging deep into this data to understand a lot more about these crashes that involved somebody who was high.”

A variety of factors play into how impaired each individual driver may be after consuming marijuana, including the amount consumed, time elapsed since consumption and the individual’s tolerance.

Because marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood long after they’ve consumed it, panelist Jack Reed, a statistical analyst for the Colorado Department of Public Safety, detailed that the state enforces existing driving laws by first identifying impairment through behavioral cues and later testing for a specific type of THC called Delta-9.

Colorado law dictates a person cannot legally drive if any more than 5 nanograms of Delta-9 THC is detected in his or her blood and Reed said Delta-9 is different from other types of THC in that it is usually only detectable in significant quantities when marijuana has been consumed within a short time of being tested, typically around two hours.

While research surrounding marijuana impairment and its effect on a citizen’s ability to drive continues to progress, panelist Matt Herrera, manager at the Pueblo Starbuds Dispensary, said he advises his customers to simply treat marijuana consumption the same way they do other impairment-causing drugs.

“There’s a misconception when it comes to alcohol and marijuana that a lot of people think marijuana is way less of a problem and it’s not,” he said.

“Even if the number is one marijuana-impaired driving fatality, that is one too many,” Kelly said.

“So compared to alcohol for example, the numbers are significantly lower than alcohol. But in our opinion, one is still too many. So our goal, and why we work with CDOT … is because we are fully committed to educating folks on the road so that they can make the right choices beforehand.”

http://www.montrosepress.com/national/news/group-trying-to-figure-out-role-of-pot-in-impaired/article_c49ff135-2611-5073-a984-9d71c701b697.html