The Pueblo Chieftan

Pot’s effect on DUIs uncertain

Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Pueblo law enforcement hasn’t determined its impact on impaired driving arrests.

Pot has been legal for people 21 and older to possess small amounts of marijuana since December, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the new law.

For the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, it’s on pace to make as many if not more DUI arrests this year than in 2012.

Undersheriff JR Hall said the majority or arrests are alcohol related.

The drug-impaired driving cases deputies see more often involves prescription medicine. Pot and narcotics are contributors, but drugs are usually not the single cause.

“Most people (arrested for DUI) are imbibing in both” alcohol and drugs, Hall said. “Factually, we can’t support the hypothesis that somehow the legalization of marijuana has slowed down DUI arrests.”

For Pueblo police, DUI arrests are down since December.

Sgt. Chris Noeller said that doesn’t point to marijuana but more to a redistribution of officers.

Manpower has been an issue at the police department this year and four traffic officers who are normally dedicated to finding impaired drivers and other traffic cases were sent to the patrol division.

“It’s hard to say if it has anything to do with marijuana. I couldn’t say with any kind of accuracy,” Noeller said. “The transfer of manpower because of the shortage in patrol, that could’ve affected that.”

With the advent of medical and now legal recreational marijuana, more and more studies are surfacing analyzing pot’s influence on drivers. The results vary.

In 2011, Time magazine published an article that said states that allow medical marijuana see fewer traffic deaths, suggesting people may be choosing pot over alcohol.

The story cited data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Household Survey on Drug Use.

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