Iowa State Patrol teaming up with other states to stop drugged driving

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa State Patrol said it expects more drivers on the road this weekend because of the Easter holiday.

But Saturday is also 4/20, which has become an unofficial holiday for marijuana users.

With the increase in people on the roads, the Iowa State Patrol is stepping up its patrols to try to curb drugged driving.

They're partnering with law enforcement from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma for a new campaign this weekend called "Drive High, Get an OWI."

Right now, marijuana is legal in some form in more than 30 states.

"We are seeing more marijuana use, in and out of everything from schools and businesses and on the roadways as well,” Trooper Bob Conrad of the Iowa State Patrol said.

That's the place the Iowa State Patrol says it shouldn't ever be.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the second most common drug found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes, after alcohol.

"If you feel different, you're going to drive different, and everybody knows, when you smoke marijuana or do some type of drug, whether it be legal prescription drugs that are taken in the wrong way or an illegal drug, you feel different,” Conrad said.

While other states have legalized recreational marijuana, it hasn't yet gotten the green light in Iowa.

But regardless of where you are, drugged driving, like drunk driving, is illegal.

"Even the states that have laws that allow recreational use, this is no different,” Conrad said. “Just because Colorado or other states allow recreational use, they still have laws that keep people from driving roads impaired."

If troopers suspect someone is driving drugged, they'll call in a drug recognition expert.

"They look at their heart rate, they look at their blood pressure, their body temperature even, just to see how they're affected by that drug,” Conrad said.

The legal consequences for anyone caught are steep, according to Conrad.

"You're looking at a loss of license for six months, up to a year,” he said. “You're looking at your insurance fines. I mean, honestly, they say an impaired driving [conviction] is costing the average person around $10,000."