Massachusetts To Add Lessons on Weed Impairment to Driver’s Ed

Massachusetts will be the first state with legal recreational pot to launch such a curriculum.

Individuals enrolled in Massachusetts’ driver’s education program will receive a new lesson starting next year.

According to State House News Service, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the program in the Bay State, “indicated Monday that is adopting the AAA curriculum, which is called ‘Shifting Gears: The Blunt Truth About Marijuana and Driving,’ in partnership with members of the Cannabis Control Commission.”

The outlet reports that the Registry of Motor Vehicles “plans a formal announcement on Friday at the Worcester Registry of Motor Vehicles,” and that it “indicated the curriculum will be adopted in January, and will update the driver education module to include research-based information on cannabis and an explanation of how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, affects cognition, vision, reaction time, and perception of time and distance.”

Per local news station WCVB, the program will make Massachusetts “the first state in the nation with legal recreational marijuana to add lessons about cannabis impairment to driver’s education programs.”

“The current driver education module addressing impaired driving will be updated to include research-based information on cannabis, explaining how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, affects cognition, vision, reaction time, and perception of time and distance,” officials with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said, as quoted by WCVB.

In a statement quoted by State House News Service, the Registry of Motor Vehicles said that next year’s driver’s education enrollees will represent “the first generation of driver education students to be licensed since cannabis became legal in Massachusetts, and AAA research shows that impaired driving crashes may increase and continue to injure and kill motorists and their passengers.”

Such curricula will likely become even more prevalent as more states enter the era of legalization and end prohibition on recreational pot use. 

Last year, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signaled that he wanted to address the problem of stoned driving in the state, which legalized weed in 2016.

Baker threw his support behind legislation called the “Trooper Thomas Clardy Law,” which bears the name of the late Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas L. Clardy, who died while making a traffic stop in 2016 after his vehicle was hit by a motorist who had THC in his blood.

“This legislation aims to make the Commonwealth’s roads safer and save lives, and we are grateful to the Clardy family for offering their family’s name and support for this legislation, which will help us avoid impaired driving incidents in the future,” Baker said in a statement at the time. “This bill will provide law enforcement officers with more rigorous drug detection training and will strengthen the legal process by authorizing the courts to acknowledge that the active ingredient in marijuana can and does impair motorists. The bill draws on thoughtful recommendations from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, and we look forward to working with our legislative colleagues to pass this bill and make our roads safer.”

But the legislation went up in smoke in the Massachusetts legislature earlier this year after some Democratic lawmakers expressed concern over the reliability of the testing devices.

Officials in Virginia are currently considering their own potential mechanisms to rein in the problem of marijuana-impaired driving, after the Commonwealth legalized recreational cannabis use last year, becoming the first state in the U.S. south to do so.

And in New York, which legalized marijuana last year and is currently preparing to open its regulated weed retailers, officials are said to be “scrambling” to find a reliable marijuana DUI test. 

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