VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1
“We did focus groups with the marijuana industry and found out they would probably not respond to heavy enforcement type messages. It had to have some humor in it and it was based on responsibility, that ‘now that you can use it, you can’t drive high.’”
The Traffic Safety
After actively enforcing drug laws during his 35-year career in law enforcement, Glenn Davis found himself in an unusual and challenging position when Colorado legalized marijuana’s recreational use, allowing people to buy it like alcohol, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
As the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Highway Safety Manager — and in light of marijuana’s legalization — Davis is a sought after speaker. His presentation at the 2015 Traffic Safety Conference, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Legalization of Cannabis in Colorado, was well attended.
“Now that the state has changed its position, our position has to change too,” Davis said. “But if you use it on our roadways, it is still 100 percent our position to stop it.”
And that’s where the challenging part comes in. In his fast-paced presentation, Davis highlighted numerous points: marijuana users do not fear being arrested. Colorado law enforcement is trained to test for alcohol, not drugs. There are significant gaps in the law related to marijuana impairment.
At the same time, Davis appears to be taking on the challenge with realistic optimism.
“I’m not an advocate of legalizing marijuana, I don’t apologize for the state,” Davis said in his beginning remarks. “This is what Colorado took on, and I’m part of the system. It wasn’t my idea to do this, but when [legalization] happened, it happened. I’m a realist. Whether it’s a good, bad, or ugly thing, in my state it’s a real thing.”
After more than a year since Colorado became a partner in marijuana sales (the state received $67 million in 2014 marijuana taxes), Davis said safety on the highways does not seem to be adversely affected. But he did admit that “we have a challenge with our data,” and the evaluation is constant.
Soon after the law was changed, the Colorado Department of Transportation kicked off its “Drive High, Get a DUI,” campaign.
“From a traffic safety standpoint, we realized we had to reach out to a new type of customer,” Davis explained. “We did focus groups with the marijuana industry and found out they would probably not respond to heavy enforcement type messages. It had to have some humor in it and it was based on responsibility, that ‘now that you can use it, you can’t drive high.’”