CDOT looks at impacts of growing up with recreational marijuana

(COLORADO) — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said Generation Z is the first generation of Coloradans who have grown up in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, so CDOT recently looked into the attitudes and behaviors of the generation in regards to driving high, along with the work it’s doing to reach all generations about the dangers.

According to CDOT, a 2023 study of nearly 1,000 randomly selected drivers showed 18 to 24-year-olds use cannabis more than twice as often as the average driver and Gen Z was twice as likely to report driving high in the last 30 days. The study also revealed that 20% of 18 to 24-year-old drivers said they had driven within two hours of using marijuana at least once in the last month, compared to 7% of older drivers.

CDOT in partnership with Native Roots Cannabis Co. conducted interviews with customers to gather valuable insights and feedback to inform future initiatives and messaging strategies.

“Cannabis has been legal my whole adult life,” said a 25-year-old young professional woman living in Denver who asked CDOT that she remain anonymous. “My friends and I prefer marijuana to alcohol — times have changed.”

According to CDOT, some interviewees said they consumed cannabis daily while drinking alcohol less often. CDOT also shared that when asked in the survey if they could drive safely under the influence of cannabis, 37% of Gen Z said yes, compared to 17% of those ages 25 to 34 years old.

“Our audience has broadened as Coloradans from new demographics explore legal cannabis consumption,” said Darrell Lingk, CDOT’s Director of the Office of Transportation Safety and Risk Management. “And cultural norms are constantly changing as well. We have data, but we also need to understand the human component to increase safe driving behaviors and decrease cannabis-involved crashes and fatalities on our roadways.”

CDOT said that in 2020, DUI cases involving younger drivers had a higher rate of positive cannabinoid screenings. The difficulty with younger drivers, according to CDOT, is reaching them about the dangers of driving high due to how they get their news and information. Younger drivers, however, are not the only demographic CDOT needs to reach, according to the press release.

“There are many people across all demographics, age groups, socioeconomic statuses, and locations that we still need to convince that driving high is dangerous and illegal,” said Sam Cole, CDOT’s Safety Communications Manager, who added that CDOT is taking a no-opportunity-left-behind mentality when it comes to reaching drivers.

Information and resources on cannabis-impaired driving can be found on CDOT’s website.

CDOT has also partnered with Learn Brands, an online budtender education platform to provide a free interactive cannabis-impaired driving safety course, and also has a multi-year initiative with the Colorado DMV to include materials and signage for driving schools and DMV locations.

“Research has shown that the most effective way to change behavior is to show that those who do choose to drive high are in the minority. Positive social norming can be effective,” said Cole.

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