‘Extravaganja’ in Northampton raises impaired driving concerns

A breathalyzer can't tell the police that you're too high to drive

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Thousands of people headed to Northampton Saturday for the annual Extravaganja festival at the Three County Fairgrounds. This is the 26th running of the event, but it’s the first year it has run with pot being legal in the state of Massachusetts.

The event draws more than 8,000 marijuana smokers yearly. It’s an event where marijuana is celebrated, and smoked openly.

Voters in Massachusetts legalized marijuana in November for adults ages 21 and over. At this event, no one under 18 was allowed in, even if they were with parents.

After the pot smoking was done, people got into their cars and drove home. Marijuana is legal recreationally, but driving under the influence is still against the law.

Northampton police told 22News they were keeping a watchful eye. Dozens of police officers were stationed at and around the event. Hadley police and State police assisted Northampton with looking out for impaired drivers.

Northampton Police Department Captain John Cartledge told 22News, “We have drug recognition experts who work with us. They can give some advanced testing to people who may impaired by drugs or other substances. Potentially, they could be arrested if they’re impaired.”

But some area residents aren’t convinced that driving high is the problem it’s made out to be.

Ryan Borchers of Agawam told 22News he doesn’t feel it’s a major problem. He said, “Alcohol has caused ‘X’ amount of deaths, versus driving high on marijuana. I’ve done it plenty of times myself, and I’ve never been in an accident behind the wheel.”

Officers were stationed at the fairground gates. They controlled traffic between Bridge Street and Damon Road, as well as I-91.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, also known as MEMA, assisted the Northampton police and gave them extra eyes on the fairgrounds to make sure everyone was safe.

One person was arrested and eight people required medical attention.

Extravaganja Festival News: