Marijuana DUI Citations Fell in 2015, CDOT Confirms

Ever since the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized limited recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, state officials have been concerned about a rise in stoned driving.

But has the phenomenon already peaked?

It's far too soon to say definitively.

But data from the Colorado Department of Transportation shows that the number of marijuana-related DUI citations actually fell in 2015 as compared to the previous year — the first during which such statistics were analyzed.

Here are the main CDOT findings for 2015:
• 4,546 citations were issued for DUI/DUID driving actions.

• 347 citations were issued for DUID driving actions where marijuana was the only indicator.

• 665 citations were issued for DUI/DUID driving actions were marijuana was one of the indicators.

• The 12 month average for DUI/D citations related to marijuana increased from 12.2 percent in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2015. However, the total number of DUI/D citations related to marijuana decreased by 1.3 percent in 2015 as compared to 2014. 
Of course, a 1.3 percent difference is minor — but given that Colorado officials seemed to expect that marijuana reform would cause the number of citations to mushroom, it suggests that the sky isn't falling.

Indeed, the figures show that the overwhelming percentage of those cited for driving under the influence have consumed alcohol — sometimes in conjunction with marijuana, but much more often without it.

And that's not to mention research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shared last year, which suggested that drunk drivers are between 16 and 80 times more dangerous than stoned drivers.

Nonetheless, CDOT doesn't want to send the message that consuming cannabis and driving is perfectly fine. A department release notes a recent study showing that "55 percent of marijuana users drove a vehicle within two hours of consuming it" — but "only 51 percent of users thought they would get a DUI if they drove high."

When more drivers realize a ticket for stoned driving remains a very real possibility, those citation totals could tumble even more, further confounding those who predicted that marijuana legalization would turn Colorado's roadways into a demolition derby on an unprecedented scale.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts