Research Gives Policymakers Info to Base Opinions
Following on the heels of related reports by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, a new report issued by Colorado’s crime research agency on Oct. 26 is offering mixed data about marijuana’s effects on the safety of Colorado’s streets, roads, and highways.
The report, issued by the state criminal justice division, comes five years after the state legalized marijuana for recreational use and is intended to put numbers, facts, and information into the hands of voters, state lawmakers, and safety officials who have long been trying to get a grip on just what legalized marijuana means to public health and safety.
The report offers a mixed bag of facts for determining whether legal cannabis makes state roadways more dangerous, according to The Denver Post writer Sam Tabachnik. The data imply that pot use among young people isn’t rising; it also shows an increase in organized crime. The report is drawing favorable responses from marijuana industry figures.
Study Offering Solid Facts About Pot Use and Driving
The researchers point out that the number of police trained in recognizing drug use rose from 129 officers in 2012 to 214 four years later. The factor could increase detection rates even without changes in driver behavior. The traffic data is also incomplete because police may decide to test a driver only for alcohol if they suspect the driver is drunk. Better detection methods are needed to provide more conclusive trend data.
Here are some key conclusions from the report:
- Drivers in fatal Colorado car accidents who were found to have marijuana levels above the legal limit decreased from 52 in 2016 to 35 in 2017.
- From 2014 to 2017, the number of citations police issued for impaired driving not involving other drugs remained steady at about 7 percent. That equals about 350 DUI citations from about 5,000 DUI arrests each year. The actual number of all DUI citations issued by the state patrol dropped from 5,705 in 2014 to 4,849 in 2017.
- The patrol reported all cases involving marijuana impairment, with and without other drugs, rose from 12 percent in 2014 to 15 percent in 2015.
- The number of patrol citations with any connection to marijuana rose from 12 percent in 2012 to 17 percent in 2016 and then dropped to 15 percent in 2017.
- Among people convicted of DUI and undergoing state-mandated treatment, about 10 percent said marijuana was their primary drug, while 86 percent said alcohol was their primary drug.
- The percentage of drivers in fatal crashes whose blood contained impairment levels of delta-9 THC, the most reliable factor for testing recent marijuana use, decreased from 11.6 in 2016 to 7.5 in 2017.
- When testing for any trace of marijuana, the number of drivers in fatal accidents who tested positive increased from 55 in 2013 to 139 in 2017, from 11 to 21 percent of all fatalities in those years.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he’d wait for reliable data about legal marijuana’s effects before weighing in on the idea of repealing it, praised the new report, stating:
“This is exactly the kind of data collection we need to inform our regulatory and law enforcement framework. …We now have that ever-critical baseline from which we can spot trends so Colorado’s leaders understand where our efforts are succeeding and identify areas where we need to focus additional research, resources or even new policy.”