According to a new study, Colorado users question the dangers of driving while high and desire more research about legal limit and self-assessment guidelines.
Cannabis consumers labeled Colorado policies about driving while under the influence of marijuana “out of touch,” although not in a way you might expect. A two-year study from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) found Colorado marijuana users considered driving while high was, more often than not, not that dangerous.
They were also skeptical about many laws and regulations involving cannabis use and getting behind the wheel. Many heavy users relied on a “gut check” to determine whether they could drive safely or not after using.
“The more often people consumed cannabis, the less dangerous they considered driving under the influence of cannabis to be,” the study’s authors wrote. “Respondents who use cannabis typically believed individual differences in consumption or tolerance were mitigating factors in someone’s ability to safely drive under the influence.
“Most users are critical of laws, policies, and enforcement surrounding driving under the influence of cannabis,” researchers continued. “Cannabis supporters saw government policies as out-of-touch.”
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Educators and law enforcement teach drivers your body requires one hour to process each drink you’ve had. Online charts also calculate what your blood alcohol level may be based on gender, weight, and how much you drank. But no such data or guidelines exist for marijuana use, complained study participants. They wanted more meaningful research about detection methods, proper self-assessment guidelines, and how long to wait until driving.
CDOT surveyed more than 18,000 Coloradans for the research through a combination of online forms, in-person meetings, and focus groups. They found many marijuana users were sensitive to negative, “stoner” stereotypes or scare tactics traditionally used in public service announcements and education campaigns. Researchers concluded the most effective strategy was to first appeal to consumers’ feelings, then follow up with facts.
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“When you’re talking about marijuana and cross over into that ‘and then he died’ phase … you cross over into that area where you’re getting unbelievable and those of us who partake are going, ‘Oh my gosh, again?’” one woman told researchers. “When you aren’t realistic, it gets really frustrating and nobody listens.”
A previous survey found drivers think texting is more dangerous than driving while high. AAA released a study last year that found nearly 15 million Americans got behind the wheel of a car an hour after smoking marijuana within the past 30 days. A 2017 report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association concluded the effects of marijuana on driving “are complex, not understood well, and vary from driver to driver.”