DOT: Will legalized pot from other states lead to accidents in Iowa?

Iowa transportation officials are concerned about drivers who are high on marijuana they bought legally in other states. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

The Iowa Department of Transportation is worried about accidents involving drivers high on pot they bought legally in other states.

Iowa DOT noted in a news release that since Colorado made recreational pot use legal, the state has seen an increase in related crashes. In 2018, 13.5% of drivers involved in fatal crashes state tested positive for cannabis. 

“It’s important to remember that even if marijuana use is legal in a state, driving impaired is not,” Iowa DOT said in a release. “As Iowa’s neighboring states legalize recreational marijuana, we’re bracing for an uptick in impaired driving crashes and fatalities here, too.”

The agency’s latest digital message on the highways: “Only the casserole should be baked. Don’t drive high.”

The message appeared to be an enlightened nod to a staple of Iowa potlucks (casseroles, not weed).

Iowa interstates 80 and 35 carry traffic from a large swath of the country. Iowa officials didn’t comment on the accident ramifications of marijuana bought illegally in Iowa and elsewhere for many decades.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found a relationship between marijuana use and driving impairment. However, the institute notes that a large study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, controlling for other potential causes, found no significant increased crash risk attributable to cannabis.

A survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Survey found 70% of respondents considered driving within an hour of using marijuana “very dangerous” or “extremely dangerous.”

Recreational marijuana is illegal in Iowa, which also has a relatively strict medicinal marijuana law. But it is legalized in South Dakota and Illinois.

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.