An effort to survey Coloradans on behaviors surrounding marijuana and driving is being hailed as an unprecedented collaboration between the cannabis industry and state officials.
The so-called “Cannabis Conversation” held its first event in the Denver metro area recently, where state transportation and law enforcement officials spoke of a partnership aimed at creating awareness around marijuana and driving.
“This is really unheard of, to have state government partnering with the marijuana industry, as well as community nonprofits, as well as law enforcement, to come here tonight and listen,” said Sam Cole, safety communications manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation, who spoke at an open house in March at Denver’s Montclair Recreation Center.
The campaign is aimed at understanding how people think about driving after consuming cannabis. Whiteboards and computer questionnaires were made available at the Denver event to survey participants on cannabis and vehicular use. Other “Cannabis Conversation” events have included similar approaches to survey the public.
The campaign’s online survey has already reached more than 10,000 people, according to CDOT. After the data is analyzed, a report will be issued.
The cannabis industry has played a critical role in the rollout of the campaign, maintaining a heavy presence at the open house events.
“We are absolutely committed to public safety and public education,” Kevin Gallagher, executive director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, said at the Denver open house.
Other cannabis industry sponsors of the “Cannabis Conversation” include the Marijuana Industry Group, Terrapin Care Station and Lightshade, to name a few.
Law enforcement also highlighted the partnership. Sgt. Rob Madden, spokesman for Colorado State Patrol, said at the event, “The fact that my table is next to you guys (the marijuana industry) is wonderful… We can learn… we can be friends, shake hands… I can cry with you, I can laugh with you, and by the end of it, we can have common ground.”
Officials are already hearing that much of the issue revolves around a lack of data on the subject of cannabis and driving. It is difficult to collect data around whether an accident or impaired driving incident is directly related to marijuana.
State and local law enforcement rarely differentiate between alcohol and marijuana incidents in their data points. That means that when a toxicology report is taken in a drunk driving incident, and marijuana is ALSO found, law enforcement adds marijuana to the incident report. But it is rarely determined whether alcohol or marijuana was the cause of the crash.
Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, which can be precisely measured in a person’s blood alcohol content, cannabis impairment is more difficult to detect. Just because Delta 9 THC is found in someone’s system does not mean the person was impaired. They could have consumed cannabis days or even weeks earlier. Tolerance is also a very different factor for each cannabis consumer.
In the absence of concrete data points on the subject of cannabis and driving, the cannabis industry wants to take responsible precautionary steps.
Look for an “Explore Responsibly” campaign from Terrapin Care Station in the coming days, in which consumers will be reminded to always know your limits. Also look for future partnerships between the cannabis industry and state officials, in which stakeholders will build off of the “Cannabis Conversation.”
And as hearings continue in the Colorado Legislature over so-called cannabis “tasting rooms,” the industry may find even more ways to partner with the state on cannabis safety and education. Tasting rooms, where consumers would be allowed to purchase limited amounts of cannabis and consume, would exist for the purposes of consumer education. Consumers would sample products under the watch of trained professionals who would provide critical product and consumption safety information.
The cannabis industry is committed to a responsible approach to consumption, especially when it comes to driving. The large presence of cannabis industry professionals invested in the issue is an indication of the industry’s commitment to work with state and private partners to advance a productive conversation.