DENVER — Though recreational marijuana is now available to the public, the Colorado State Patrol is reminding people that it remains illegal to drive impaired by marijuana.
“If you’re driving and you’re impaired by marijuana or by anything else, you will be stopped, you will be cited, you will be arrested,” said CSP Sergeant Mike Baker.
Whether it’s marijuana, alcohol or illegal drugs, officers test for impairment in the same way. They’ll assess driving behavior and conduct field sobriety tests. Since there is no roadside breath test for marijuana, if a trooper detects impairment in the field, the next step is a blood test.
“If they comply with that blood test, our troopers will transport them, usually to an area medical facility,” Sgt. Baker said. “Our troopers do not take blood from people.”
Since the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado law enforcement agencies have been adding more Drug Recognition Experts, who receive special training. State Patrol has also expanded drug detection classes for all troopers.
Sergeant Baker says the increased education is precautionary.
“Colorado has a lot of great people and they abide by our traffic laws, but in case we do see an increase (in Marijuana impairment), we’re training our troopers accordingly,” Baker said.
Marijuana advocates say the legalization of recreational marijuana sales shouldn’t lead to fears about more marijuana impaired driving.
“There’s no evidence suggesting more people are going to be driving while impaired,” said Mason Tvert. “We really need to take a reasonable approach here.”
Tvert says the legalization of marijuana now allows law enforcement to focus more on impaired driving of all kinds. Last year Colorado did pass a legal limit for marijuana in the blood stream. Drivers are assumed to be impaired if they have five nanograms of THC per milliliter. However, the limit does not lead to an automatic conviction. It is simply used to help guide a jury during a trial.
“Nobody in Colorado wants people who are impaired by any substance to drive,” Tvert said. “But we also really need to make sure that we’re not criminalizing and punishing people who aren’t impaired when they’re driving.”