With recreational pot shops opening soon, state warns about driving high

BOSTON (WHDH/AP) — Massachusetts is stepping up warnings to motorists about the risks of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration announced the new public education and enforcement campaign on Wednesday. The first recreational pot shops in the eastern United States are expected to open in Massachusetts in the coming weeks.

The campaign, which also renews warnings against driving under the influence of alcohol, asks marijuana users to consider alternatives to driving, such as a designated driver, public transit or ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft.

“Safely operating a motor vehicle is a responsibility every driver must take on for themselves, their passengers and other travelers on the road,” Baker said. “Today, we remind everyone in Massachusetts about the serious dangers associated with mixing alcohol or marijuana with driving and the importance of planning ahead for a safe ride home from a designated driver, ride-sharing service or public transportation.”

No retail stores have opened yet. The Cannabis Control Commission has awarded provisional licenses to three medical marijuana dispensaries that hope to begin selling recreational marijuana soon.

Regulators could issue three more retail licenses at their next meeting on Thursday.

State and local police plan to increase patrols and hold many more sobriety checkpoints when marijuana shops open.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana, like alcohol, negatively affects the skills required for safe driving by:

  • Slowing driver reaction time.
  • Negatively affecting a driver’s ability to make decisions.
  • Impairing coordination.
  • Distorting perception.

“Responsible cannabis use includes making plans for sober transportation,”Cannabis Control Commissioner Jennifer Flanagan said. “It is up to consumers to educate themselves about the consequences of impaired driving and I appreciate the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for getting to the heart of this important issue.”