UMass study finds many young people drive high

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Twice as many people drive high on pot as those who drive drunk. 22News found out why people think it’s okay to drive under the influence of marijuana.

There’s a misconception that it’s safe to operate a car after smoking weed. UMass public health professors hope their research will help change that.

“I think the whole mentality’s being changed because it’s another issue that’s come up,” said Natalia Von Hausen, a recent UMass Amherst graduate told 22News.

Everyone knows drunk driving can lead to deadly accidents, but UMass researchers found not all students recognize the danger of driving high.

“I think it’s all based on perception. When you’re under the influence of either alcohol or marijuana it does impair your judgment but when you’re under the influence of marijuana it doesn’t impair you as badly,” said Ralph Tayamora, a recent UMass Amherst graduate from California.

The UMass study found 44 percent of young men who smoked weed, then drove under the influence. More than half felt safe riding in the car with a high driver.

UMass Health Policy Professor and the lead author of this study, Jennifer Whitehall, said the results suggest public health departments should do more to raise awareness of the dangers of driving high.

“Driving drunk is in the media alot more. There’s been a lot more problems with it pinpointing being drunk and not so much with marijuana,” recent UMass Amherst graduate Matthew Cromican told 22News.

“I think the government’s gonna pass laws like that you can’t drive because I heard about laws in Colorado about people getting pulled over because they’re too high, so it’s probably going to be a new wave of policies,” said Von Hausen.

With marijuana only recently becoming decriminalized and more and more legal medical marijuana, researchers are just starting to collect data on its effects on driving. Students and researchers believe in time, the acceptance of smoking and driving will change.

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