Marijuana: At least 75 percent of DUIs in one Colorado city involve alcohol, not pot

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Images from a Denver Police Department video spotlighting a 2013 DUI checkpoint.
In the months since limited marijuana use and possession became legal for adults 21 and over, we've been seeking out statistics related to driving under the influence of marijuana in the hope of determining how the number of offenses compares to alcohol-related DUIs. Earlier this month, for instance, we revealed that at one Larimer County checkpoint, the ratio of alcohol to pot busts was 21 to 1.

Now, the City of Lakewood has provided us with information about a checkpoint last Friday night, as well as figures compiled between 2009 and 2013. The data shows that at least 75 percent of DUI arrests over these periods involved alcohol -- and that total is often a whole lot higher.

During the May 23 checkpoint, conducted at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, Lakewood police officers contacted 1,689 cars, with four DUI arrests made. Of those, one was classified as DUID: driving under the influence of drugs. In the latter case, the drug was marijuana.

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Obviously, this is a very low sample size -- but the other information provided by Lakewood police spokesman Steve Davis involves a lot more arrests. Specifically, Lakewood Police Department personnel compared driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2013, just prior to the January 1, 2014 launch of legal recreational marijuana sales. And the stats are eye-opening.

The entire LPD document is below, but here's a sampling.

In 2009, there were 876 DUIs in Lakewood. Of those, drug use was suspected in 101 of them, or about 11.5 percent. However, that number includes all drugs, not just marijuana. Pot was actually found in 38 instances, or around 4.3 percent of the time, while other drugs were spotted 32 times.

Does that mean only 4.3 percent of DUI arrests involved marijuana? Not necessarily. Drivers could have been driving high on pot but not have had any in their vehicle, suggesting that the actual number may be greater. Then again, some cases may have involved both alcohol and marijuana, making it difficult for officers to discern which substance resulted in the driving infraction or if it had been a combination of two or more.

Consider those caveats in the context of numbers from 2010, 2011 and 2012, which rose incrementally above those in 2009.

In 2010, Lakewood recorded 776 DUIs, with 121 thought to involve drugs -- approximately 15.6 percent. Cannabis was found in 6.7 percent of the stops.

In 2011, DUIs dipped slightly, to 754. Of those, drugs were suspected in 131 -- about 17.4 percent. Marijuana was found around 8.5 percent of the time.

In 2012, the DUI total in Lakewood was 614, with drugs suspected in 123, or approximately 20 percent. Cops found pot 61 times: approximately 10 percent.

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Last year, however, the marijuana numbers fell slightly even though Amendment 64 had already passed and municipalities were preparing for marijuana legalization. The 2013 DUI total was 581, with drugs suspected in 112 cases, or 19.3 percent. Weed turned up 51 times, or 8.8 percent.

The LPD's Davis encourages people not to jump to conclusions after perusing these statistics. In his view, it may take five-to-ten years before we can determine "that we made a mistake" by legalizing marijuana for recreational use or "it's no big deal."

Here's the aforementioned document laying out the Lakewood DUI statistics for 2009 through 2013.

Lakewood DUI and DUID Statistics 2009 2013

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa May 13: "Marijuana: Ratio of alcohol DUI busts to pot stops at weekend checkpoint was 21 to 1."


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43 comments
John
John

No one should drive impaired. But honestly, I would rather be on the street with drivers who are high than ones who are drunk. Oh, and DonkeyHotay is an idiot. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Wastewater Analysis Shows City's Drug Consumption Patterns

Jan. 24, 2014


Dan Burgard, an associate chemistry professor, knew students tried to get an edge. But he didn’t know about the “study drug.”


“I was walking with a student,” Burgard said, “and they bemoaned that it wasn’t students cheating nowadays to get ahead, but that they were taking Adderall,” a potent amphetamine used to treat attention disorders.


Burgard had an idea: Let’s test the campus sewage. What he and his students at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., found confirmed their suspicions.


“The amphetamine levels go through the roof during finals,” Burgard said. 


Scientists, increasingly able to detect minuscule amounts of compounds, have begun to test sewage to gauge communities’ use of illegal drugs. When people take drugs, they are either unchanged or the body turns them into metabolites before they’re excreted.


“It amazes me it wasn’t really until 2005 that anyone had really done this or thought about doing this, now articles are constantly coming out about testing wastewater for drugs,” Burgard said. “With the technological advancements, this field is just going nuts.”


Though nascent, such research could help tackle the drug problem across America, said Caleb Banta-Green, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Washington.


“If you can look at drug trends through wastewater you can have a conversation with your community and try to make changes. And then, testing the wastewater after such changes, you can see if you’re having an impact,” Banta-Green said.

Sewage tests, particularly in Europe, are starting to paint a picture of drug trends in various countries and cities:


♦ In London, cocaine and ecstasy spike on weekends while methadone is used more consistently.


♦ In Italy, cocaine use has declined while use of marijuana and amphetamines has increased.


♦ In Sweden and Finland, people use more amphetamines and methamphetamines and less cocaine than other European cities. Also, in Finland, stimulants were more common in large cities.


♦ In Zagreb, Croatia, marijuana and heroin were the most commonly found illicit drugs, but cocaine and ecstasy showed up more frequently on weekends. 


♦ In Oregon, cocaine and ecstasy are more common in urban than in rural wastewater according to a 2009 study.


♦ During Superbowl weekend in Miami in 2010, drug levels in sewage did not differ much from a normal weekend.


♦ In three anonymous Canadian cities, cocaine was the most widely detected drug, while ecstasy levels were much lower than expected, according to a2011 study

Burgard estimates that more than 20 such studies have been conducted in Europe over the past decade. In comparison, only a few have been conducted in North America.


Banta-Green said Europe got started with this research earlier but it’s starting to gain more traction in the United States. He is writing a paper based on data he collected from 20 U.S. cities.


Wastewater doesn’t tell you who’s using, how they’re using it or why they’re using it. Also, by looking at amounts, you don’t know if you have “100 heavy users or 1,000 light users,” Banta-Green said.


Banta-Green cautions that it’s also important to not take one sample in a community – without previous samples or context – and try to draw conclusions about drug use.


But despite such limitations, the technique has advantages over quantifying drug use with surveys, which Burgard called “highly suspect.” Given the illegality and stigma of drug use, those surveyed may not always tell the truth, he said.

Testing sewage also covers entire populations, across racial, age, gender and economic statuses, Banta-Green said


And wastewater doesn’t lie.


“Increasingly people have no idea what they’re even taking,” Banta-Green said. “I was looking at police evidence for the drugs in the Seattle area that were supposed to be ecstasy. The main ecstasy ingredient was only present in 26 of the 81 drugs. Sewage can tell us something about these ingredients.”

Stel1776
Stel1776

Driving high on cannabis is stupid, and it will remain illegal, but lets put this into perspective. Some studies have found drivers under the influence of cannabis to be no more culpable in crashes than drug-free drivers [Chesher & Longo. 2002; Romano et al. 2014], some have found cannabis users to be LESS culpable [Drummer. 1995]. However:


•A review of studies found that drivers had a two times greater risk of being in an accident after smoking cannabis (fatal and non-fatal). [Hartman and Huestis. 2013]

•Cell phone use increases crash risk by FOUR times (fatal and non-fatal). [McEvoy et al. 2005; Redelmeier & Tibshirani. 1997]

•Texting increases crash risk by EIGHT to TWENTY-THREE times (fatal and non-fatal). [Drews et al. 2009; Olsen et al. 2009]

•Tobacco smokers had a 1.5 times increase in risk for accidents over non-smokers (fatal and non-fatal). [Brison. 1990]

•Drivers with a LEGAL BAC of between 0.05% and 0.07% have a FOUR to TEN times greater risk of being in a FATAL accident. [Zador et al. 2000]

•Drivers impaired on alcohol at 0.09% BAC have more than an ELEVEN times greater risk of being in a FATAL single vehicle accident. [Zador. 1991]

•Drivers impaired on alcohol between 0.10 and 0.14% BAC have a FORTY-EIGHT times greater risk of being in a FATAL single vehicle accident. [Zador. 1991]


Why is driving under the influence of alcohol so much more dangerous than driving under the influence of cannabis? It is most likely because of the very different behavioral effects of the two drugs. Where cannabis tends to make its users more cautious and aware of their impairment, alcohol tends to do the opposite, making people overconfident, aggressive, and wreckless. Here are two studies that allude to this:


"Alcohol impaired performance relative to placebo but subjects did not perceive it. THC did not impair driving performance yet the subjects thought it had."

DOT HS 808 078, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Final Report, November 1993


"Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution, at least in experiments. Another way THC seems to differ qualitatively from many other drugs is that the formers users seem better able to compensate for its adverse effects while driving under the influence."

H. Robbe. 1995. Marijuana’s effects on actual driving performance. HHMRC Road Research Unit, University of Adelaide. 1995.


It is plausible that greater cannabis use could lead to less carnage on the road. States that legalized medical cannabis actually saw an overall drop in vehicle related fatalities. They also saw a decrease in alcohol consumption:


"The first full year after coming into effect, [medical cannabis] legalization is associated with an 8 to 11 percent reduction in the fatality rate."

"We find that the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with reduced alcohol consumption, especially among young adults."

Anderson et al. Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption. Journal of Law and Economics. 2013


This study found no incresae in road trauma in cannabis users. It did find benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Clonazepam, Lorazepam, etc) and legal levels of alcohol (0.50-0.79 BAC) increase odds of injury by about 5 times:


"No increased risk for road trauma was found for drivers exposed to cannabis. The study concludes that drug use, especially alcohol, benzodiazepines and multiple drug use and drug-alcohol combinations, among vehicle drivers increases the risk for a road trauma accident requiring hospitalisation"

Movig et al. Psychoactive substance use and the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Accid Anal Prev. 2004.


Monkey
Monkey

The only crime here is the checkpoint itself. "police officers contacted 1,689 cars, with four DUI arrests made." I'm sure these pigs make 4 DUI arrests every holiday, without a checkpoint. 

Brandon Malone
Brandon Malone

The marijuana limit is much too low. I will fail that test before smoking for the day because I'm a heavy smoker.

Benjamin Howard Brockway
Benjamin Howard Brockway

Ill smoke any amount of weed and pass a drivers test. Do a side by side with people just under the legal limit with alcohol (.07?) and with someone who smoked a joint. You're still just criminalizing your community. Remember Jenny Kush? because if I recall correctly, the drunk lady drove the wrong way down The HOV lane and smashed into the stoners... not the other way around

Bob Dobbs
Bob Dobbs

Fascists won't let this long term tool to criminalize The People go easily. Alcohol is the killer, drunk politricksters. Cannabis HEALS.

Bret Kantola
Bret Kantola

It was never a problem and still isn't. Once again, ignorance triumphs.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

So how does 25% DUID-marijuana make society safer or better?



DangerMan
DangerMan

The ONLY numbers I want to see are the number of marijuana related crashes vs. the number of alcohol related ones. I imagine these figures would be miniscule if not non-existent in the marijuana category. Just because some cop got lucky and smelled weed in a car during an illegal checkpoint stop does not mean marijuana is a danger on the roads.....This does not illustrate a dangerously impaired driver, just an opportunity to give a citation.

Steve At Work
Steve At Work

Good point, Stan, but .08 (the standard) is a bit low to warrant a felony. It's an arbitrary number determined by politics, not science. .10, sure but .08 is a couple of beers for someone petite.

Stan Salazar
Stan Salazar

I think it doesn't really matter if law makers and voters are too stupid to see how making DWI a felony here in the state would help as a deterrent because of a harsher punishment.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

Carlton, it's not going to happen. Noticing the hypocrisy that one much more dangerous drug is legal to buy and then consume enough for a fatal overdose when the reason given for the stupidity of the absolute prohibition of cannabis is because of its alleged danger.

The sycophants of prohibition opened the door for this specific  comparison when they made the baseless allegation that the incidence of DUI would skyrocket if those sycophants knew where people buy their cannabis.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Stel1776   


Tracing the U.S. heroin surge as Mexican cannabis output falls


TEPACA DE BADIRAGUATO, MEXICO — The surge of cheap heroin spreading in $4 hits across rural America can be traced back to the remote valleys of the northern Sierra Madre.


With the wholesale price of marijuana falling — driven in part by decriminalization in sections of the United States — Mexican drug farmers are turning away from cannabis and filling their fields with opium poppies.


Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown.


Farmers in the storied “Golden Triangle” region of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced the country’s most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop. Its wholesale price has collapsed in the past five years, from $100 per kilogram to less than $25.


“It’s not worth it anymore,” said Rodrigo Silla, 50, a lifelong cannabis farmer who said he couldn’t remember the last time his family and others in their tiny hamlet gave up growing mota. “I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.”


Growers from this area and as far afield as Central America are sowing their plots with opium poppies, and large-scale operations are turning up in places where authorities have never seen them.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Monkey ... every one of those 1,689 compliant sycophants consented to have their rights and privacy violated.


Not ONE of them exercised their 2nd Amendment Right to defend themselves against "government tyranny"


The only crime is the Cowardice and Blind Submission to Government thuggery exhibited by the average U$ citizen.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... so who's forcing you to drive a car?



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... yet the stoners were unable to react quickly and correctly to avoid the accident.

DonkeyHotaySucks
DonkeyHotaySucks

@DonkeyHotay Is your goal to out fud any other commenter?  Answer the question yourself.  If you even have an opinion.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@DangerMan


Marijuana use involved in more fatal accidents since commercialization of medical marijuana


Date:May 15, 2014

Source:University of Colorado Denver

Summary:The proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009, according to a study. The study raises important concerns about the increase in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive since the commercialization of medical marijuana in Colorado, particularly in comparison to the 34 non-medical marijuana states.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

The Authors, Promoters and Voters for that piece of crap A64 did not repeal a single Felony Statute against marijuana in Colorado, leaving them all in FULL FORCE against every individual marijuana user and grower.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Duncan20903 ... only morons and brain-dead bong-sucking stoners would deliberately associate and continually conflate "a harmless plant that never killed anyone" with DEADLY alcohol that harms, maims and kills 100s of thousands every year.


Morons like the lying liars who wrote and promoted that festering piece of crap A64.



Nerf
Nerf

@DonkeyHotay So you are advocating for people to use firearms  on cops trying to make stops at a DUI checkpoint. Your psychopathic violent tendencies are noted, average U$ citizen.

Nerf
Nerf

@DonkeyHotay So you're asserting that the drunk driving wreck that killed Jenny was completely avoidable and that Jeremy and Jenny were impaired and at fault?


Prove it.

DonkeyHotaySucks
DonkeyHotaySucks

@DonkeyHotay @DangerMan What conclusions are you trying to draw from positive metabolite tests?  Testing for a marijuana metabolite does nothing to show impairment.  Not sure what metabolite testing is supposed to tell us other than people use Marijuana in Colorado.  Duh!

DonkeyHotaySucks
DonkeyHotaySucks

@DonkeyHotay Another off topic comment.  Fud fud fud fud fud fud, and more fud.  Do you have an relevant opinion to Ashley's comment Donkey?  Nope.  Just not your "style."

DonkeyHotaySucks
DonkeyHotaySucks

@DonkeyHotay No need to reply Stan, Donkey has nothing to say.  He's just a fud machine.  Fud fud fud fud and more fud.  No opinion of his own.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Nerf  The gun freaks are only interested in the parts of the Constitution that agrees with them.  They ignore the "well regulated" aspect of the 2nd Amendment, for example.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Nerf ... so you're admitting that the Gun Loon Lobby doesn't have the courage to use their precious pistols to defend the Constitution from Government Tyranny?


Nerf
Nerf

@DonkeyHotay @Nerf If. If. If. 


If frogs had wings they wouldn't bump their asses when they hop.



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Nerf ... if Cocaine Cowboy had swerved RIGHT instead of left, Jenny might well be alive today, as the impact would have been on his side of the car.





Nerf
Nerf

@DonkeyHotay


… and remember,"Correlation does not equal Causation" according to you.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotaySucks @DonkeyHotay @DangerMan


No one claimed the tests were equivalent, numbnuts.


You stoners are the ones who always want to compare and conflate marijuana with alcohol, you even begged the Government to regulate your precious pot "like alcohol" during the idiotic campaign for that festering turd A64 ... you remember, the Amendment which EXPLICITLY DECLARED that Driving Under the INFLUENCE of Marijuana SHALL REMAIN ILLEGAL.


You whine and complain that there are variances and inaccuracies in the marijuana testing ... as there are variances and inaccuracies in alcohol testing.


You fools got EXACTLY what you voted for.


Now Bück Dich and get REGULATED, Bitch!


.

DonkeyHotaySucks
DonkeyHotaySucks

@DonkeyHotay @DangerMan I guess when you can't concede the tests are not equivalent tests of impairment just post a bunch of unrelated info eh?  Same old Donkey.  Maybe it's time to learn new tricks?  Just a thought.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@DonkeyHotaySucks @DonkeyHotay @DangerMan



Blood alcohol tests assume the individual being tested is average in various ways. For example, on average the ratio of blood alcohol content to breath alcohol content (the partition ratio) is 2100 to 1. In other words, there are 2100 parts of alcohol in the blood for every part in the breath. However, the actual ratio in any given individual can vary from 1300:1 to 3100:1, or even more widely.


This ratio varies not only from person to person, but within one person from moment to moment. Thus a person with a true blood alcohol level of .08% but a partition ratio of 1700:1 at the time of testing would have a .10 reading on a Breathalyzer calibrated for the average 2100:1 ratio.


Breath alcohol testing further assumes that the test is post-absorptive—that is, that the absorption of alcohol in the subject's body is complete. If the subject is still actively absorbing alcohol, their body has not reached a state of equilibrium where the concentration of alcohol is uniform throughout the body.



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