Making Government Work

Here’s How One State Discourages Pot-Smokers From Getting Behind the Wheel

March 12, 2014
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Here’s How One State Discourages Pot-Smokers From Getting Behind the Wheel
Theo Stroomer/Getty Images
Colorado’s new video series — aimed at those getting a Rocky Mountain high — draws attention to safe, recreational use of marijuana.

With great freedom comes even greater responsibility. Nowhere is that more relevant right now than in Colorado, where stores began legally selling recreational marijuana on January 1. But it’s not all high times and healthy Girl Scout Cookie sales, though. The Rocky Mountain state’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) is using humorous, thirty-second commercials to raise awareness and lower instances of smoking and driving.

“As Coloradans now have more access to marijuana, we want them to be aware that law enforcement is trained to identify impairment by all categories of drugs and alcohol,” Col. Scott Hernandez, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol, said in CDOT’s statement announcing the $1 million “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign, which began today.

The campaign, which is funded by a federal grant from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, includes public service announcements intended for men aged 21 to 34 — the demographic with the highest number of DUIs. The commercials are simple, but effective. They show “average” Colorado males somewhat comically tripping up while doing mundane activities, like installing a TV or playing basketball while under the influence of marijuana. They’re designed to show that smoking and driving, often considered less dangerous than drinking and driving, is equally risky. A separate arm of the campaign will target the state’s tourism industry through brochures and posters at rental car companies and dispensaries.

The commercials are funny, but the statistics surrounding pot usage are not. Ever since Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana, public safety records show an uptick in reports of drivers under the influence in both states. A September CDOT survey of 770 Coloradans found 21 percent had operated a moving vehicle after consuming marijuana sometime within the past month.

Meanwhile, more than 1,300 drivers in Washington tested positive for marijuana last year. That number, a nearly 25 percent increase from 2012, could be a direct result of the new law. On the bright side, Washington officials told the Associated Press there’s been no corresponding jump in car accidents.

As one of the first states to the legalize recreational sale and use of marijuana, along with Washington, Colorado has set a proactive standard for safety, emphasizing the importance of sitting down while smoking up.

Watch all of the new PSA’s below.

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