DENVER – Colorado is launching a new “Drive High, Get A DUI” campaign to remind drivers that newly legal weed should be treated like alcohol and not consumed before driving.
The campaign includes radio and TV ads and new posters to be displayed in dispensaries.
The other part of the effort is enforcement.
Right now, 200 officers of various agencies are trained recognition experts. Another 20 graduated with that certification Thursday.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper calls this a top priority, and wants at least 300 officers to be trained with this certification by next year.
During 56 hours of training, officers are taught a 12-step process for recognizing the symptoms of drivers who may be impaired by a variety of drugs or alcohol. With marijuana, the officers are taught to look for enlarged pupils, sniff for the drug’s odor and look for small tremors in the driver’s body.
“We teach them to look at certain things, and it is kind of an elimination process,” said Sgt. Rodney Noga from the Colorado State Patrol.
Officers also check blood pressure, muscle softness and look for injection sites for other kinds of drug use. If drivers fail the observation test, a blood test is the next option to confirm or deny the presence of drug or alcohol impairment.
The effort from the Colorado Department of Transportation comes as Colorado struggles to keep accurate statewide records on marijuana-impaired drivers. State police chiefs told lawmakers this week that they need more money to train officers in recognizing stoned drivers.
The chiefs wrote a letter saying, in part, that they “have diverted staff from other operations into marijuana enforcement, leaving gaps in other service areas.”
In Washington state, officials this week reported that more drivers tested positive for marijuana in Washington last year. But officials there say there’s been no obvious, corresponding jump in car accidents.
Washington and Colorado legalized recreational weed in 2012.