Manish Panghal via Unsplash

For those of you who are readers of Montclair Local’s “Letters to The Editor,” my views are no surprise when it comes to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the State of New Jersey, and the consequences for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

I have spoken about the downfalls of having no scientific testing (other than consent blood tests) or procedures to detect impairment of those suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana. It is my professional opinion that reliance on drug recognition expert officers will give lawyers defending these cases in court a field day. With the passing of the legalization of marijuana, and the increase of other drug legalization efforts, impaired drivers will continue to travel on U.S. roadways.

I would like to offer some statistics to back up what I have been saying for the last five months. In the May 2021 edition of the International Association of Chiefs of Police publication, the article “Teaming Up to Address Drugged Driving” discussed the following. Self-reported data from 2019 showed 28.7 million U.S. drivers ages 16 and older drove under the influence; 13.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs, and 12.8 million specifically drove under the influence of marijuana. Drugged driving was most prevalent among drivers ages 21 through 25 (12.7 %) and ages 16 to 20 (9.4%). I would like to point out these statistics are from a 2019 report and will surely grow when this new law becomes fully effected in the State of New Jersey.

Recent changes in many U.S. state laws regarding marijuana use, both for medical purposes and  recreational use, have brought greater attention to driving under the influence of cannabis.  Law enforcement as well as the public sector must promote greater emphasis on the message “Don’t drive drunk or high.” Respect yourself and respect the driving public.

It did not take long for those crafty entrepreneurs dealing in the sale marijuana to find a loophole  in New Jersey’s legal pot law to circumvent the system. This new scheme is called “gifting weed,” where a company allows you to buy cookies that sell at a price of $50 or more, which then come with a gift of an ounce of cannabis flower, as a token of appreciation. It should be noted licenses to sell legal marijuana in New Jersey are still months away. As I have indicated in my previous letters, where there is a will they will find a way to circumvent the system.

Thomas J. Russo
Former Montclair Township police chief and director of public safety

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