DENVER (KDVR) — For people that enjoy consuming marijuana, April 20 is seen as a national holiday. For others however, it’s a day to be on high alert. Local budtenders are gearing for a busy afternoon as law enforcement hopes for a slow one.
“There are stores tomorrow that will see 500, 600 people through one store,” said Christopher Stefan, a local cannabis business consultant.
If you don’t already know the lingo, ‘420’ is code for all things THC.
“It’s said to have been traced back to some high school in San Francisco where all the people could get together at 4:20,” said Stefan. “Now it’s a day and a whole culture.”
Denver budtenders are preparing for large crowds looking to celebrate the nationally recognized cannabis holiday. COVID-19 hasn’t slowed marijuana sales and certainly won’t stop the 420 fun. Dispensaries will be offering specials and giveaways for certain customers.
“Usually there are three or four competing events but due to COVID-19 we are a little more shut down,” said Stefan. “But, we still expect it will be a really bustling day tomorrow.”
Meanwhile this morning, the Colorado Department of Transportation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and victims of impaired driving held a conference, hoping to send a clear message ahead of Tuesday’s celebrations.
“We’ve surveyed close to 20,000 cannabis consumers on the issue,” said Sam Cole, CDOT communications manager. “And while many know that driving high is illegal, they still don’t understand how dangerous it can be to combine marijuana with alcohol. We hope these stories, told by real Coloradans, will change some minds and encourage people to find alternatives to driving impaired.”
While alcohol remains the most common substance found in fatal crashes involving an impaired driver, there is an uptick in fatal crashes that involve cannabis. The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes with active THC above the legal limit of 5 nanograms increased from 33 in 2017 to 49 in 2019. During those same years, fatalities that involved alcohol fell from 192 to 164.
Arrests are also increasing for drivers impaired by multiple substances. According to Colorado State Patrol data, arrests increased 90% for drivers impaired by cannabis and alcohol and 17% for drivers impaired by cannabis and other substances between 2019 and 2020. Combining substances together, such as cannabis and alcohol, greatly increases impairment and the likelihood of a crash.
“We work with people every day who are affected by impaired driving,” said Fran Lanzer, executive director of MADD Colorado. “And these stories show some of the tragic outcomes of drug and alcohol impaired driving — we hope that people realize that their choices can have very serious consequences and choose to make a plan for a safe ride home.”
Denver Police told FOX31 on Monday to remind cannabis users it is illegal to smoke weed in public. If caught you could be fined up to $999 and cited for public consumption.