Both before and after Colorado residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana use, one of the chief arguments of the anti-legalization camp was that access to the drug would create a spike in frequencies of stoned driving. Naturally, if more people are able to buy and smoke marijuana, then surely that would have to mean more people are driving under the influence of marijuana.
But even though that seems like a reasonable conclusion to jump to, it's not one supported by any hard data (at least not yet).
Vox breaks down two of the principal reasons why it's still hard to gauge what effect, if any, legalized marijuana in Colorado will have on rates of stoned driving:
- A positive marijuana test doesn't necessarily mean the driver was high: "Since marijuana can remain in someone's system for weeks at a time, it's unclear if the drivers testing positive for marijuana were actually high while they were behind the wheel," writes German Lopez for Vox. "The increase could merely show people are driving within weeks of trying or using pot, not necessarily that more people are driving while high."
- The data isn't there: While the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has collected data on drugged driving, it's not easy to discern any meaningful conclusions from them. According to Vox, less than 50 percent of drivers in fatal car accidents are submitted to drug or marijuana testing, and even when they are tested, they rarely exhibit having marijuana in their system at all. Consequently, the CDOT data is based off of relatively small population samples that could be subject to minute year-to-year changes and "statistical noise" that drowns out whether or not stoned driving cases are actually going up or down.
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