'Drugged driving is a problem in our country,' Washington state traffic safety official says at University of Massachusetts …
AMHERST — While there is both a stigma and focus on drunk driving in the United States, the same light is not shined on drugged driving, the keynote speaker at a University of Massachusetts symposium said Monday.
“The issue of drugged driving is a problem in our country. It is nationwide,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
“(The issue) isn’t just about cannabis,” he said. “There’s almost a social acceptance of drugged driving.”
That needs to change, he said.
Grondel was the keynote speaker at “Marijuana Legalized: Research, Practice and Policy Considerations,” part of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences the Dean’s Symposia Series. His talk was titled, “The Washington Experience: Drugged Driving and Marijuana Legalization.”
Beginning in July, it will be legal to buy marijuana for recreational purposes in Massachusetts.
UMass offered the forum to help prepare all those who will deal with the public health implications, said Risa Silverman, director of the Office for Public Health Practice and Outreach.
She said the implications “are far-ranging.”
She said it’s not clear yet how best to screen for drug use, but she said bringing in Grondel helps people look at what that state has developed. “Washington State has more experience than we do,” she said.
Bringing him here “gives us an eye and an ear to what they’ve already learned,” she said.
Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana two years ago. Silverman said with it all so new, “we’re just learning together.”
The forum also featured Cheryl Sbarra, senior staff attorney and director of policy and law for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards; Jennifer Whitehill, UMass assistant professor of health policy and management; and Elizabeth Evans, assistant professor of community health education.
More than 100 attended, including