With cannabis now legal, MN DPS reminds people not to drive high

Outside MN State Capitol
Outside MN State Capitol(Quinn Gorham)
Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 6:31 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (GRAY) – As of August 1st, cannabis is legal in the state of Minnesota. With the new law, Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety is reminding people that operating a vehicle while high is still driving while impaired.

“We’ve been proactively preparing in order to be ready when legalization did occur,” said Mike Hanson, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety at DPS.

While the drug became legal in Minnesota just this week, it’s hardly a new thing for DPS to deal with. Hanson says State troopers have been dealing with cannabis-impaired drivers for years, and the new law won’t change that fact.

“Cannabis-impaired driving is not new, but impaired is impaired. If you feel different, you drive different. If you feel different, don’t drive,” Hanson said.

Hanson says cannabis is very different from alcohol, but it can still impair reaction times, decision-making, and in some cases, vision. He says it’s too early to tell what impact the new law will have but judging by other states that have legalized the drug, it wouldn’t be surprising to see cannabis-related traffic stops increase.

“We will expect that we’re going to see an increase in the number of cannabis-impaired offenses that take place out there,” he said.

Driving while impaired can be just as dangerous if you’re operating a watercraft as well.

“When you start to see people who are operating boats, recreational vehicles, or snowmobiles while they’re impaired, the danger is that they’re putting other people at risk,” said Lisa Dugan with the Minnesota DNR, “We want people to be enjoying the state’s resources safely and not under impairment.”

Overall, it’s too early to know what sort of impact cannabis will have on impaired driving violations, but Hanson says the department is prepared to adapt.

“We’ll evaluate our strategies based on what we see in those statistics as they develop,” he said.

Public Safety Officials also remind people that much like with alcohol, having an open container or package of cannabis in a moving vehicle is against the law.