Young Coloradans More Likely to Use Cannabis and Drive, Survey Shows

More than one-third of drivers younger than 25 think they could drive safely under the influence.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
  • 10+ years in insurance and personal finance content

  • 30+ years in media, PR, and content creation

Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

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MacKenzie Korris
MacKenzie KorrisInsurance Copy Editor

MacKenzie Korris is an insurance copy editor with years of experience in print and digital media. He strives to craft actionable, inclusive copy that fosters smart decision-making through reader autonomy. He has a journalism degree from Saint Louis University.

Published February 27, 2024 at 4:00 PM PST | Reading time: 2 minutes

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Drivers age 18-24 use marijuana more than twice as often as drivers in other age groups and are more than twice as likely to report driving high in the last 30 days, according to a survey of cannabis users in Colorado.

In fact, 1 out of 5 Gen Z drivers admitted to getting behind the wheel at least once a month within two hours of using cannabis. And more one-third felt they could drive safely under the influence of cannabis.

A generation comfortable with cannabis

Recreational marijuana use has been legal in Colorado since November 2012. Consequently, “Generation Z is the first generation of Coloradans who have grown up in a state where recreational cannabis is legal,” the state’s Department of Transportation said in an announcement of its survey results.

While the survey found that just 8% of all survey respondents admitted to driving within two hours of using cannabis, 20% of Gen Z drivers had done so.

Additionally, the survey revealed:

  • 37% of Gen Z cannabis users said they could drive safely under the influence of the drug.

  • Only 22% of respondents thought a police officer would likely be able to tell if a driver had consumed cannabis at a traffic stop.

  • 19% of respondents said they’d used cannabis in the past 30 days.

“Cannabis has been legal my whole adult life,” one 25-year-old respondent said. “My friends and I prefer marijuana to alcohol — times have changed.”

Colorado cannabis laws

Just as with alcohol, Colorado state law sets a limit on how high is too high to drive.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the substance in marijuana that causes impairment. In Colorado, drivers with 5 nanograms of THC per millimeter of whole blood can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

Depending on how drivers consume cannabis, and how much they take, they should wait at least six to eight hours — or longer — before getting behind the wheel, the state advises. THC can lower reaction time, undermine problem-solving skills, and reduce a driver’s ability to focus, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

Consequences of a cannabis DUI

Driving high in Colorado carries the same safety, legal, and financial risks as driving drunk.

“Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention to stay safe and alert,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Marijuana affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment.”

Motorists charged with driving under the influence of THC in Colorado face a high probability of conviction. Of those charged with driving under the influence of THC, 92% were convicted of the offense, according to a 2022 report by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice.

Further, a DUI conviction can substantially increase car insurance rates for three to five years. For example, the average cost of full-coverage car insurance in Colorado is $210 per month, according to Insurify data. The average for Colorado drivers with a DUI conviction, though, is $330.

What’s next?

Colorado’s Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles, and certified driving schools continue to partner to elevate awareness of the dangers of driving high, including impairment of critical driving abilities, DUI charges, and other consequences.

“Young consumers are cord-cutters. They consume news and information differently than before, but they’re not the only people we need to reach,” said Sam Cole, safety communications manager at CDOT. “There are many people across all demographics, age groups, socioeconomic statuses, and locations [who] we still need to convince that driving high is dangerous and illegal.”


Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content

Evelyn Pimplaskar is Insurify’s director of content. With 30-plus years in content creation – including 10 years specializing in personal finance – Evelyn’s done everything from covering volatile local elections as a beat reporter to building fintech content libraries from the ground up.

Before joining Insurify, she was editor-in-chief at Credible, where she launched and developed the lending marketplace’s media partnership’s content initiative and managed the restructuring of the editorial team to enhance content production efficiency. Formerly, as tax editor for Credit Karma, Evelyn built a library of more than 300 educational articles on federal and state taxes, achieving triple-digit year-over-year growth in e-files from organic search.

Her early career included work as a content marketer, vice president and managing officer of a boutique public relations agency, chief copy editor for 14 weekly Forbes publications, reporting for large and mid-sized daily newspapers, and freelancing for the Associated Press.

Evelyn is passionate about creating personal finance content that distills complex topics into relatable, easy-to-understand stories. She believes great content helps empower readers with the information they need to make important personal finance decisions.

MacKenzie Korris
Edited byMacKenzie KorrisInsurance Copy Editor
MacKenzie Korris
MacKenzie KorrisInsurance Copy Editor

MacKenzie Korris is an insurance copy editor with years of experience in print and digital media. He strives to craft actionable, inclusive copy that fosters smart decision-making through reader autonomy. He has a journalism degree from Saint Louis University.