DRIVING HIGH IN MASS

By Bob Katzen

Governor Baker filed legislation to implement the recommendations made by the Cannabis Control Commission’s Special Commission on Operating Under the Influence and Impaired Driving. Creation of the commission was part of the controversial law to legalize recreational marijuana.

Several of the recommendations simply treat marijuana-impaired driving the same as drunk driving. A driver suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana who refuses to take a chemical test for impairment would lose his or her license for a minimum of six months, the same as the current penalty imposed on a suspected drunken driver who refuses to take a breathalyzer test.

Driving with unsealed packages of marijuana in the vehicle would be treated the same as a person under current law who drives with open containers of alcohol in the car.

Other provisions include adoption of a law authorizing courts to take judicial notice that ingesting THC, the active chemical in marijuana, can and does impair motorists; development of educational materials and programming on drug impairment to share with trial court judges; and directing the Municipal Police Training Committee to expand the training of drug recognition experts, and allow them to testify as expert witnesses in civil and criminal cases.

“Today’s proposal includes important changes that will make Massachusetts safer and improve how police officers train for detecting the influence of intoxicating substances like marijuana, how they interact with motorists who show signs of impairment, and eventually how these cases are tried in a courtroom,” said Gov. Baker. “Our administration views these improvements as the next deliberative step for the commonwealth and the Cannabis Control Commission to continue implementing the legalization of recreational marijuana safely and responsibly, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this bill into law.”

“With the legalization of adult-use marijuana establishments here in the commonwealth since 2016 and with the recent approval by the Cannabis Control Commission of new licensees this past fall, it is absolutely essential that police officers stand ready to address the potential dangers posed by some motorists who choose to operate a motor vehicle while impaired after consuming marijuana,” said Brian Kyes, Chelsea Police Chief and President of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs.

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