Preparing for pot: Commission looks to determine safe limits for Massachusetts drivers

BOSTON (WHDH) - As more pot shops get the green light to open their doors in Massachusetts, a special state commision is coming up with ideas on how to cut down on the number of impaired drivers.

The Special Commision on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving met at the State House Friday to offer their recommendations on how laws may have to be changed now that recreational marijuana is legal.

No decision has been made on determining a safe threshold on marijuana use.

“The fact that there is no .08 for recreational marijuana as there is for alcohol, it is a much more challenging impairment to measure,” said Mary Macguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs for AAA. “So that is really what we are grappling with here on the commission.”

Fears that there will be an increase in drivers operating under the influence are front and center on the minds of many in Massachusetts communities now that pot shops are opening their doors.

“Unfortunately we could likely see an increase in OUI drugs and when you have an increase in OUI drugs it can be an increase in fatalities,” Walpole Police Cheif John Carmichael said.

Attorney Peter Elikann pushed for a swift decision on what is an urgent problem.

He also said the “perfect solution” — the equivalent of a marijuana breathalyzer — is still three to five years away but there are techniques that can be put into place in the field.

The commission heard testimonies about some of the different kinds of tests that can be used to determine if a driver is high on marijuana.

They believe that drug recognition experts, or DREs, will be in high demand in the coming days.

“We have upwards of 150, we will probably have to double that,” Carmichael said.

Elikann agreed saying, “at this very moment in time that is probably the most effective tool we have.”

The final report from the commision is due to lawmakers on Jan. 1.

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