Though marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, officials are reminding residents that that doesn’t mean they can drive while high.
The state’s public safety office unveiled this week a new campaign aimed at highlighting the risks of driving while impaired by marijuana.
“Drive high? The crash is on you,” the motto of the new ad campaign warns.
Officials said that they crafted the campaign by looking at how Colorado, which legalized weed in 2012, addressed the effect of marijuana legalization on road safety.
The ad campaign by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) will include TV spots, radio ads and billboards targeting drivers between the ages of 18 and 49.
In one ad, a stoned man repeatedly presses a button on his grill, but it doesn’t light. “Grilling high is now legal,” the ad says. “Driving to get the propane you forgot isn’t.”
Officials aren’t attempting to “demonize” Bay Staters who want to toke, said Art Kinsman, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s regional administrator, but just to get people to think about if they are impaired.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana can cause slower driver reaction time, affect a driver’s ability to make decisions, impair coordination and distort perceptions.
“Drivers involved in crashes with THC in their blood, particularly at higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol,” said Jennifer Queally, undersecretary for law enforcement for the EOPSS, in a statement. “The marijuana industry recognizes that marijuana is an impairment and, like the alcohol industry, has a responsibility to provide safe-use information to their customers.”
As part of the campaign, EOPSS is also providing additional funding to state and 150 local police departments to amp up enforcement efforts. State and local police will hold a series of impaired driving sobriety checkpoints, and patrols will be conducted at “high incident locations” across Massachusetts.
“We are taking a zero-tolerance approach to impaired driving,” said State Police Col. Richard D. McKeon in a statement. “Our officers will be vigilant about identifying and removing from the road any driver who is impaired because of drugs, alcohol or both.”