Starting on January 1st, 2018, residents of California who are 21 or older will be able to purchase recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries. While that’s certainly good news for many Cali residents and the breakfast cereal industry, law enforcement agencies are somewhat less enthused. In particular, California Highway Patrol officers are bracing for the legalization of recreational marijuana as it will introduce a whole host of challenges and issues for both drivers and officers alike. To help fight some of the negative side effects of recreational pot, California traffic safety officials have now unveiled a new publicity campaign designed to help combat “stoned” driving.
The campaign is not designed to increase traffic stops or police presence, but to increase awareness about the dangers of driving while stoned, particularly for new users or stoner tourists who will surely be flocking to California in droves. These newbies pose a problem because many first-time or inexperienced marijuana users can have a difficult time determining how much to take, especially when it comes to those ever-so delicious edible forms of cannabis. Chief Brent Newman of the California Highway Patrol says that despite what many marijuana users might believe about their ability to drive after a few bong rips or gummy bears, cannabis can be just as impairing to one’s driving ability as alcohol:
Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of any impairing substance is not only dangerous — it is crime. With a lot of these other things you don’t know the concentration of cannabis and what you are taking in and your don’t know the effect it has. So you are dealing with a lot of variables that are unknown.
While driving impaired is never a wise idea, the effects of marijuana on driving aren’t well understood. While some studies have found that cannabis can impair one’s ability to drive safely, other studies have been unable to find a link between marijuana use and traffic accidents. Meanwhile, a 2015 Gallup poll found that only 29% of Americans believe driving under the influence of marijuana poses a significant safety risk. Still, a crime is a crime. Just remember: Taco Bell can wait. Stay home, fire up some video games, and call for a pizza, ents.