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Have marijuana-related DUIs increased in Colorado?

This question has been a concern of law enforcement since marijuana was legalized for personal use in 2014. The answer so far is no.

Recently on this blog, we explained Colorado's marijuana DUI laws. Interestingly enough, state law enforcement had never separated out impaired driving incidents to look at the proportion related to alcohol, marijuana or anything else for that matter such as prescription drugs.

In 2014, however, the Colorado State Patrol started tracking marijuana-related citations to identify trends. From 2014 to 2015, the data showed a slight decrease (about one percent) in the number of marijuana DUIs and DUIDs.

The total number of these citations in 2015 was 4,564. Of those, marijuana played a role in 1,102 of the arrests.

Focus and trends

While it is hard to draw conclusions about trends with only two years data, it may indicate that law enforcement has not made marijuana a particular focus.

All Colorado State Patrol troopers do receive Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training. In addition, the agency has 64 Drug Recognition Experts.

Even refusal carries stiff consequences

It is unlawful to drive with more than five nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) per milliliter of blood. Officers commonly cite these signs of marijuana use:

  • Slower than normal speech
  • The distinctive smell
  • Visible pipes, rolling papers or other paraphernalia.

Colorado has an Express Consent Law that requires a driver to take a chemical test if an officer has reasonable suspicion the driver is impaired. Refusal triggers the immediate loss of a driver's license. Other possible consequences are the revocation of a driver's license for one year and an ignition interlock.

If accused of driving under the influence of marijuana or test refusal, contact a defense attorney for help fighting the charges.

Source: Cortez Journal.com, "2 years of data on marijuana DUIs now available," Jessica Pace, Feb. 16, 2016

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