Editor’s Note: This appeared in YourAAA, the Jan./Feb. edition of the Automobile Association of America/Northeast. Our state Legislature may legalize recreational marijuana as soon as this month.
The legalization of marijuana is gaining popularity within the U.S. A recent Gallup poll found that 66 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. More than half the states have legalized marijuana use to some extent.
Of the six states in the AAA Northeast footprint, only Massachusetts has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. But there have been recent pushes to legalize it in both New York and New Jersey. Marijuana use for medical purposes has seen success in NJ with the implementation of new jersey marijuana cards for those who need it for its medical benefits in helping people manage a range of health conditions, some very serious. It’s important to remember that marijuana is not all about getting high.
Traffic crashes increased by 6 percent in states that legalized recreational marijuana when compared to neighboring states, according to recent studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute.
AAA, which opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use due to traffic-safety concerns, has launched new initiatives aimed at combatting drugged driving.
One program sponsors drug-recognition-expert courtroom training, which helps sharpen the presentation skills of experts and prosecutors to strengthen their courtroom arguments related to impaired-driving cases.
“Drug recognition experts are facing even greater challenges when it comes to drugged driving,” said Mary Maguire, director of public & legislative affairs for AAA Northeast. “And AAA Northeast is committed to helping law enforcement meet those challenges.”
The other program focuses on educating teenage drivers.
“More citations are given to teen drivers for drugs than alcohol,” said Diana Imondi, traffic safety programs manager for AAA Northeast.
Imondi helped develop a new curriculum covering driving and marijuana use. It will be taught in Rhode Island high school health classes this year before being rolled out to other nearby states.