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Driving Stoned In NJ: An Issue Of High Concern?

With Governor Phil Murphy only a week away from his inaugural address, expectations are unwavering for the NJ State Assembly to pass legislation legalizing cannabis for recreational use throughout the state. While many are ecstatic about this likely improvement in the law, some have concerns, one of the most notable being driving while impaired by THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Senate Republican Whip Joe Pennaccio told Gannett New Jersey Media that he has “major concerns” about how that plays out on the roads if marijuana use surges upon legalization.

“This is not your dad’s pot,” Pennaccio said. “You smoke this stuff, you’re going to be cognitively impaired. You shouldn’t be behind the wheel, but there’s no way of policing it.”

Kevin Sabet, an advisor to President Obama on National Drug Policy feels that just as any other issue with law enforcement or quality of life, there will be policies and procedures to address driving after having used cannabis.

“They can greatly invest in drug recognition experts and more law enforcement,” Sabet said. “They can greatly invest in awareness programs similar to drunk driving campaigns. And they also can invest in the technology that can help us get a roadside test that can at least detect.”

Sabet pointed out that “There is no magic solution to this issue.”

Although driving under the influence of cannabis is never advocated or condoned, there is no correlation of data to show an increase in accidents or incidents of people driving while high in legal states.

Is this a large enough issue to hold up legalization or cannabis? California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Alaska and Washington all did not think so.

Pernaccio concludes, “A wiser way to proceed is give it to a nonpartisan group like the State Commission of Investigation. Let them come back with a report about the concerns we’re expressing right now. Come back in six months and tell us what happened in Colorado and in Washington — the good, the bad and the ugly. What can we do better? Can we do it? Until then, I would put the brakes on this.”

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