4/20 celebrations approach, organizations caution about cannabis and driving


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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – As Wednesday kicks off some 4/20 celebrations for pot smokers across the state, national organizations are cautioning people about the dangerous effects cannabis can have on your driving.

22News spoke with members of Students Against Destructive Decisions, or SADD, about a program they are working on with AAA Northeast. It’s a program to help prevent impaired driving. And while this is an issue that affects everyone, this is geared toward the next generation of drivers.

Lauren Zimmerman-Meade, the Northeast Regional Manager of SADD, told 22News, “When we are on the road, we are sober. We are always going to be that way when we are behind the wheel.”

A message that Students Against Destructive Driving hopes resonate with all young drivers as of April 20th, also known as “4/20”, returns to the calendar.

“It is illegal to drive under the influence of substances,” Zimmerman-Meade said. “So it’s very important to remember that while THC or marijuana may be legal in Massachusetts, it is absolutely not legal to get behind the wheel of a car and drive.”

Data show next to alcohol, marijuana is the next drug most commonly found in drivers who have been involved in collisions. Studies by AAA say cannabis use before or during driving slows coordination, decision-making, and reaction time narrows peripheral vision and makes it harder to judge distance as well as stay in lanes.

According to AAA, one person dies every 52 minutes because of impaired driving in the United States. Since 2015, 632 people have died in Massachusetts crashes involving the mixed-use of alcohol and drugs, including cannabis.

Students Against Destructive Decisions and AAA Northeast, teaming up to prevent teens from driving impaired.

Diana Gugliotta from AAA Northeast told 22News, “Young people tend to be very vigilant and very educated about using designated drivers whenever they are in a predicament when there is alcohol use, but that doesn’t always translate to marijuana.”

The program called “Shifting Gears”, which is available for schools across the country, will also cover the effects of THC on the developing teenage brain as well as the physical and cognitive processes affected by marijuana use.

And on 4/20, Students Against Destructive Decisions will be hosting a web event to talk more about marijuana impairment. You can find that info on that event here.

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