CDOT collects ideas to curb driving high |

CDOT collects ideas to curb driving high

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily
Kent Larick, a budtender at Roots Rx in Edwards, and Fernando Almanza, a 911 dispatcher at the Vail Public Safety Communications Center, discuss solutions to stop drivers from using marijuana while operating a vehicle.
Special to the Daily

EAGLE — The dispensary owner pointed at the cops and said, “You need a test you can give that indicates someone is driving high.”

So when it comes to driving high, cops and cannabis people are on the same side … and it won’t be yours if you insist on driving under the influence of marijuana.

Sam Cole from the Colorado Department of Transportation is traveling the state leading the Cannabis Conversation, collecting ideas and brainstorming ways to convince marijuana users that driving high is a bad idea.

The tour made its only stop in the mountains Wednesday afternoon for a workshop with nonprofits, local law enforcement and dispensary owners. It was a collaboration with the Eagle River Youth Coalition.

Suggestions, suggestions

Suggestions ranged from education (mandatory classes before teens can get their driver’s licenses) to enforcement (automatic fines of 10% of an offender’s annual income).

“We don’t want it to take more than 20 years for the facts to sink in, as it did with alcohol,” Cole said.

The public perception that tobacco use is unhealthy is a relatively recent phenomenon, Sam Aspnes with CIG-PR said. Similar campaigns could do the same for driving high.

“In a 2016 survey, 90% of marijuana users were aware that you could get a DUI for driving under the influence. But something is not clicking and people continue to drive high,” Cole said.

That 2016 survey found that 55% of marijuana users said they believed it was safe to drive under the influence of marijuana, according to CDOT data.

In Colorado and Washington, 43% of marijuana users reported driving high in the past year.

What to do, what to say

As one person in Wednesday’s session suggested: “Ask marijuana users what would work.” CDOT started doing exactly that with its traveling forum. The Cannabis Conversation looks to engage with stakeholders and the media, and CDOT has launched a survey that, so far, has more than 15,000 responses. The plan is to roll out a campaign next year, Cole said.

In Germany, a DUI is 10% of your annual income, said Det. Aaron Veldheer with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

“It doesn’t matter if you flip hamburgers for minimum wage or own a company,” Veldheer said.

That 10% fine could help pay for the education programs, participants suggested.

That suggestion received, by far, the most support from the four dozen people in the Garden Level classroom of the Eagle County Building in Eagle.

Other popular suggestions included:

Offender classes run by previous offenders.

Education for families.

A marijuana mythbusters class.

Facts and solutions information distributed in hotels.

Treatment, not punishment, for youth after a first offense.

Revoking a driver’s license for a year — a much tougher offense than the three months under current state law.

A local dispensary owner suggested that parents search their kids’ cars and be involved and aware of what their children are doing.

Make more public transit options available. Hillary Higgins with the Eagle River Youth Coalition said they’ll provide transportation during this year’s Bonfire Block Party in Eagle. Dispensary owners say when they host an event they provide free transportation home for people.

“Make it easy for people to not drive high,” Higgins said.

CDOT will use these suggestions and thousands of others as it crafts the campaign, Cole said.