How Did Marijuana Legalization Affect Colorado DUI/DWAI Law?

Decriminalization of recreational marijuana use had no impact on Colorado DUI/DWAI law.

In November 2012, Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana use by passing “Amendment 44.” After the amendment passed, many people had concerns about impaired marijuana users on the roadways. But how, if at all, did marijuana decriminalization affect Colorado DUI/DWAI law?

In short, Amendment 44 had no effect on Colorado DUI/DWAI law. And here’s why.

In Colorado, it’s illegal to drive a motor vehicle while “under the influence” (DUI) of or “ability impaired” (DWAI) by marijuana, or any other drug.

You’re considered “under the influence”—the standard for a DUI—if the substance ingested “affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable … [of exercising] clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” And a person is “ability impaired”—the standard for a DWAI—if the substance “affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been … to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.” (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42-4-1301 (2016).)

So, anyone who drives while impaired or affected by marijuana (as defined above) can be convicted of a DUI or DWAI, respectively. It doesn’t matter that the driver may have ingested marijuana legally. Amendment 64 even included provisions that explicitly said the new law didn’t affect existing DUI/DWAI law. (Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 16.)

(Read about the consequences of a DUI or DWAI conviction in Colorado.)

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