According to research conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), many frequent cannabis users believe driving under the influence of marijuana is safe.
The CDOT launched a two-year campaign in 2017 dubbed The Cannabis Conversation, which aimed to understand how people feel about driving under the influence of marijuana in Colorado, where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2012.
Although it did not provide specific statistics, the CDOT said it surveyed 18,000 Colorado residents across a series of studies since 2017 and concluded that frequent cannabis consumers are more prone to considering driving under the influence of the substance as safe.
In fact, the more often respondents indulged in marijuana, the more they were inclined to state that driving under the influence was more of a personal choice based on one’s ability to handle weed.
Another key highlight from the report noted that “many cannabis users are highly skeptical of the laws, policies and enforcement regarding driving under the influence of cannabis — and want credible, nuanced information.”
In addition to some marijuana users that said they are unconvinced of the dangers of driving while high, certain respondents said they believe the opposite may be true – that they have heard that cannabis can improve reaction time or driving ability.
This falls in line with other respondents to the survey that suggested they are better at driving while high because of the calming effect that cannabis has on the brain.
Others that admitted to engaging in driving under the influence of cannabis said they relied on gut instincts to determine whether they will be able to safely drive while high.
“I think cannabis tolerance plays a huge factor in what ‘under the influence’ might be. I am a heavy user. If an inexperienced user consumed a normal amount for me, they would probably be unsafe to drive,” one survey respondent was quoted.
The CDOT said it was motivated to launch the awareness campaign by the significant percentage of high drivers involved in fatal car crashes. In 2018, the agency said, 13.5% of Colorado drivers involved in fatal crashes had tested positive for marijuana.
The fact that Colorado, along with Washington, was the first U.S. state to legalize adult-use sales also means that the state has a unique opportunity to “help establish norms and safe behaviors so people don’t drive under the influence of cannabis.”
A study conducted by PSB Research and Buzzfeed News last year found that 48% of cannabis users feel it is safe to drive while under the influence.