Drunk driving wasn’t illegal in all 50 states until 1988. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act not only set the age of consumption to 21, it also made driving under the influence of alcohol illegal nationwide.
That might seem insane today, but just 35 years ago it was perfectly legal to get in your car, crack a brewski and hit the road. It still might be if it hadn’t been for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Throughout the 1980s MADD helped states pass more than 700 drunk driving laws; the organization pushed to close loopholes, impose stricter penalties and lower the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 — where it remains today.
Since MADD was founded, there has been a 55% reduction in drunk driving deaths — with little thanks to the alcohol industry itself. Their lobbyists fought hard against MADD and still are today. According to the National Library of Medicine, in order to create a favorable political environment, the alcohol industry is still using “information and other means to gain access to political decision-makers … promoting alternative policies or voluntary measures … providing financial incentives to influence government policymakers; and [employing] legal preemption, litigation, or circumvention.”
The cannabis industry, by comparison, is taking the opposite approach. Cannabis brand Native Roots is working cooperatively with MADD and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and conducting its own research on cannabis-impaired driving to promote safer driving habits.
“Regardless of substance or scenario, impaired driving is never OK,” says Liz Zukowski, policy and public affairs manager at Native Roots Cannabis Co. “We feel a responsibility and duty to inform our customers about how cannabis can impact the body and mind, and how to make a safe transportation plan when consuming.”
That’s why, ahead of 4/20, Native Roots teamed up with RBI Strategies to conduct a survey to understand the consumption and driving habits of their customers.
“There wasn’t a lot of consumer data out in the public relating cannabis use with a customer’s driving habits,” Zukowski says. “So we saw this gap in the data and set out to fill that gap.”
Over 16 days in February, 520 people responded to questions at 10 Native Roots locations about cannabis use and driving. The interviews were staggered across the morning, afternoon and evening. And the results were revealing — if not surprising.
Forty-one percent of respondents say they may drive under the influence; with 22% saying they would drive depending on the amount they consumed, 11% saying they were “very likely” to drive while high and 8% saying they “probably” would.
Fifteen percent of respondents said they consume cannabis while driving in a vehicle, or on a scooter or bicycle. Twelve percent said they ride with a driver who is under the influence of cannabis every day. Twenty-four percent of daily users didn’t even know you could get a DUI for driving high.
There were also places where cannabis consumers demonstrated responsibility. More than 70% said they’re almost never a passenger with a high driver, and 96% said they usually consume at home (or at a friend’s house, or at an event). More than half, 59%, indicated they were “not very likely” to drive while high. For non-regular users, it was even less, with just 2% indicating they would operate a vehicle while stoned.
“I thought it was really interesting how much [these results] resembled some of the research that’s been done by the [Center for Disease Control] over the years,” says Sam Cole, traffic safety manager with CDOT, referencing a CDC report from 2021. “They’re showing about the same number, the same percentage of cannabis consumers that are driving high that we’ve seen in previous data.”
On top of the survey, Native Roots is also partnering with CDOT to train all of its 180 budtenders using CDOT’s Cannabis Impaired Driving Course. The course, offered through the platform Learn Brands, is using cannabis budtenders as an entry point for education about driving while impaired.
Zukowski says this course is now a standard part of Native Roots’ budtender training.
As part of this partnership with MADD and CDOT, Native Roots is also offering free delivery services through April 22. So if you’ve already partaken and don’t want to risk getting behind the wheel, you won’t have to.