A two-year study by Colorado Department of Transportation found that cannabis consumers consider driving under the influence of the drug to be less dangerous and are skeptical of laws and policies against stoned driving. The statewide study focused on Coloradans’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors on driving and cannabis.
Despite consumer opinions that driving under the influence of cannabis is less dangerous than driving under the influence of other drugs and alcohol, most surveyed still consider the travel conditions, their personal alertness, and how recently they consumed cannabis before driving, the report says.
Additionally, those skeptical of driving-while-stoned enforcement expressed a desire for more research on detection methods, dosage-based legal limits, a self-assessment of impairment and how long they should wait before driving. Most consumers were sensitive to ads that addressed the dangers of stoned driving but also said the messages overstated the dangers of driving high, stereotyped cannabis users, or were overall unrealistic.
Specifically, on the enforcement issue, the primary critiques were that the current legal limit of THC in the bloodstream – 5 nanograms – is “not based on sufficient evidence” and the benchmarks are “an inaccurate measure of impairment because tolerance varies widely based on individual characteristics.”
By-and-large, cannabis consumers and supporters saw government policies on the issue as “out-of-touch.”
The key to reaching some skeptics, CDOT found, is to lead with feelings and follow with facts. Cannabis consuming respondents said they enjoyed the honest tone and straightforward approach of safety campaign materials, like PSA ads, and felt like they were being talked to by a friend and not an authority figure.
“Cannabis users liked ads that focused on providing information or a different perspective but didn’t feel heavy-handed or condescending.” – CDOT, “The Cannabis Conversation”
Cannabis users also didn’t like terms like “weed” or “pot” and preferred “cannabis” and “marijuana.”
The agency connected with more than 18,000 Coloradans via surveys, focus groups, and public meetings. Sam Cole, CDOT traffic safety communications manager, said the effort found “no typical” cannabis consumer.