(Nigel Duara, Associated Press file)

Marijuana involved in 12 percent of Colorado State Patrol DUI cases

The State Patrol did not provide statistics on the marijuana blood levels found in the cases or how often the citations led to convictions.

Approximately one in every eight citations issued by the Colorado State Patrol last year for impaired driving involved suspected marijuana use, according to new statistics from the agency.

The numbers are the first year-long data the state has ever released on stoned driving, and they add new context to an ongoing debate over whether marijuana legalization will make Colorado’s roads less safe. But they also provide far from a conclusive answer to the question.

For 2014, The State Patrol reported that troopers issued 5,546 citations for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Of those, 674 — about 12.2 percent — involved suspected marijuana use, either alone or in combination with other intoxicants. For 354 of those citations — about 6.4 percent of the total, or one in every 16 — marijuana was believed to be the only substance involved.

The State Patrol did not provide statistics on the marijuana blood levels found in the cases or how often the citations led to convictions. The numbers also don’t provide a complete picture on stoned driving enforcement in Colorado because they don’t contain tallies from local police and sheriff’s departments.


Public education: Colorado marijuana PSAs take folksy angle with 2015 ‘Good to Know’ campaign


Still, state highway officials said they show the need to educate people that driving stoned is not OK.

“We won’t be satisfied until everyone in Colorado takes driving high seriously, so the need for awareness and education is paramount,” Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a statement accompanying the new numbers’ release.

CDOT last year spent $1 million on an ad campaign called “Drive High, Get a DUI.” Even after the campaign, a CDOT study found that 21 percent of recreational marijuana consumers didn’t know they could be cited for driving under the influence of pot.


“We have no acceptable test”: Stoned driving has Congress stumped


Because DUI cases involving marijuana are not differentiated in court data, Colorado has long struggled to determine whether stoned driving is an increasing problem in the state. Last year was the first year the State Patrol began tracking marijuana DUIs. The agency now has 61 troopers who are trained as drug recognition experts.

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johningold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com