Throughout April, Native Roots visitors will find handouts and fliers sharing information about safety and the numerous dangers linking marijuana impairment to fatal car crashes and accidents, but the clearest message will be at the cash registers, as budtenders are covering their mugs with face masks that say "I'll be blunt. Don't drive high."
“We know we have a large footprint throughout the state. We have twenty locations across eleven different jurisdictions," explains Native Roots public affairs director Shannon Fender. "So we really feel like we're doing our part to help educate on the harms of cannabis-impaired driving.”
According to CDOT spokesman Sam Cole, there were 49 THC-involved fatalities in Colorado in 2019, and 2020 saw an increased rate of impaired drivers overall. Cole's concern with driving stoned is multiple CDOT surveys showing that marijuana users are more likely to believe that driving under the influence of pot is less dangerous than alcohol; CDOT surveys also show that millennials and generation Z were the largest age group likely to drive under the influence of pot within an hour of consumption.
As 4/20, the annual marijuana celebration held every April 20, approaches, CDOT typically ramps up the awareness of driving high. In previous years, the department has partnered with dispensaries and ride-sharing programs to provide consumers with discount codes to avoid driving on 4/20. According to Cole, marijuana users might feel that a dispensary is a more trustworthy source regarding impaired driving than governmental organizations.
"As we approach 4/20, we think this is a time of year when the cannabis community might be really receptive to hearing a message about the importance of never driving under the influence of marijuana," Cole says. "So that's why we're making a big push right now to get the industry to help us be spokespeople around this message and help us prevent impaired driving in the state."
Punishment for driving under the influence of marijuana in Colorado can range from fines and legal fees up to $13,500 among more serious consequences like jail time, loss of license and more, according to CDOT — even though the THC limit for driving in Colorado, 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, has been flagged as scientifically dubious.
Last September, CDOT launched the Uncomfortable High campaign, promoting public discussions around pot-impaired driving and providing data regarding stoned driving accidents and fatalities since recreational marijuana was legalized in 2014.
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