Safety officials speak on dangers of impaired driving before cannabis legalization

Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Minnesota is one week away from full decriminalization of cannabis and the Department of Public Safety is getting the word out about the dangers of impaired driving.

The heads of state patrol, traffic safety, and natural resources enforcement joined Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson on Tuesday.

They stressed people should have a plan to get home safely and many of the rules for cannabis are in line with long-established alcohol laws such as open container laws.

According to the DPS of the 197 fatal crashes in Minnesota this year, 29 involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

In addition, 21 involved a drugged impaired driver.

Jacobson shared a warning for drivers tempted to get behind the wheel while high.

“One message we want to make sure driving high is a DWI. Let me repeat that driving high is a DWI,” says Jacobson.

“Impaired is impaired on the road, regardless of the substance, and the effects can be tragic for everyone else on the road,” said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol.

That also remains true for those enjoying boating and other recreational activities.

“There’s no excuse for operating a recreational vehicle or watercraft while impaired,” says Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director. “Conservation officers will not give a second chance to anyone who operates while impaired and willfully puts everyone else on the trail or on the water at risk.”

Cannabis effects that can impair drivers:

  • Difficulties in road tracking.
  • Lane-position variability.
  • Decreased, divided attention.
  • Impaired executive functions, including route planning, decision-making, and risk-taking.

Illegal under the new cannabis law:

  • Drivers or passengers to open any cannabis packaging, use marijuana, or consume other cannabis products.
  • Drivers or passengers to have an unsealed container of marijuana (for example, 2 ounces in a zip-close bag). Similar to alcohol, the exception is an unsealed container or other opened products may be kept in the trunk of a car or another area not accessible by the driver or passengers.
  • Driver being impaired by marijuana or other cannabis products will result in a DWI.

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