Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Statistics gathered by Rochester area law enforcement agencies show the legalization of recreational marijuana by the State of Minnesota intersected with a huge increase in the number of impaired driving offenses involving drugs last year.

Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson shared the statistics during his most recent regular appearance on News-Talk 1340 KROC-AM and 96.9 FM during the Rochester Today Show. The Sheriff indicated he had recently looked up the numbers as part of a presentation to local attorneys during an Olmsted County Bar Association event.

Sheriff Torgerson/KROC AM
Sheriff Torgerson/KROC AM

Torgerson, who made regular trips to the State Capitol to express opposition to legal cannabis, says he was not surprised by what he found. On the radio broadcast, he stated that the statistics he gathered covered three years and included reports submitted by the Sheriff's Office and the Rochester Police Department.

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He says, in both 2021 and 2022, there were 90 offenses each year involving 47 individuals who were cited for driving while impaired by some substance other than alcohol. He noted those offenses included impairment due to marijuana and other illegal substances, as well as prescription medications.

Getty Images
Getty Images (stock image)

Last year, coinciding with the legalization of the possession and use of recreational cannabis as of August 1, the number of DWI offenses not associated with alcohol use jumped to 126 cases and a total of 220 offenses. Sheriff Torgerson says both numbers more than doubled when compared to those reported the previous two years.

Torgerson went on to describe the ongoing efforts of the Sheriff's Office and other Minnesota law enforcement agencies to train additional Drug Recognition Experts, or DRE officers, who are certified to testify in court about their assessment of a driver's impairment by marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drugs. He also says the Sheriff's Office is participating in a pilot project by the Minnesota Department of Traffic Safety to field test two different devices designed to detect the presence of cannabis and other drugs in a driver's system during a traffic stop or after a crash.

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Gallery Credit: Jessica On The Radio