BOSTON (WWLP) – The state of Massachusetts is now adding cannabis education to it’s driving school program.

This means Massachusetts will be the first state with recreational cannabis use to adopt a curriculum that educates teens about the risks of cannabis-impaired driving.

As of January, Massachusetts will adopt a cannabis-impaired education program called “Shifting Gears: The Blunt Truth About Marijuana and Driving.” The current driver education program will be updated to include more specific information on the effects of cannabis like cognition, vision, reaction time, and perception. All of the people 22News spoke to thought the change was positive.

“Yeah I think it’s a great idea. We don’t need people driving around high or drunk, you know it’s a great idea,” Joe Morrissette from Chicopee told 22News.

“The more you can get kids aware of what can happen if they do the wrong thing. I would also add to that being on their phones, but the more you can educate young people the safer the roads will hopefully be,” John Kendzierski from West Springfield said.

The cannabis impaired driving curriculum will be taught to about 50,000 students per year at all of the Massachusetts driving schools. There are about 700 of them. The Springfield Police Department says adding this piece into the curriculum makes a lot of sense. There are many legal consequences drivers face from driving under the influence of cannabis.

“If you get pulled over and an officer believes you may be high, they could do a roadside assessment, which is very similar to a field sobriety test for alcohol. You could end up in jail, pay a hefty fine, have to pay a lawyer a lot of court fees,” Ryan Walsh, Public Information Officer for the Springfield Police Department told 22News.

Walsh said if officers find an open container of marijuana in your car you’ll by subject to a $500 penalty and if you are high or potentially high operating a vehicle it could be arrest able as well.

AAA research shows that impaired driving crashes might increase and will continue to injure and kill motorists as well as their passengers.

“Adding information about cannabis to the Massachusetts Registry’s driver education class is important for the safety and wellbeing of teens that are just learning to drive,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The new cannabis instruction will help individuals make informed decisions and I am pleased that Massachusetts is leading in including it in driver education.” 

“The new cannabis curriculum is an important addition to driver’s education in the Commonwealth and will help inform and educate new drivers of the inherent dangers of being cannabis-impaired while driving,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The curriculum was collaboratively developed and reviewed by public and private stakeholders, academia, students, and their peers to ensure that critical research-based information and safety messaging on cannabis was incorporated as a key component of all driver’s education to help reduce crashes and help keep all roadway users safe.”

“We are pleased to incorporate this new cannabis curriculum video into the RMV’s educational tools and resources that are currently available to help new drivers learn about safety impacts, rules and responsibilities, and risks associated with operating motor vehicles on statewide roadways,” said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie. “The video provides detailed information on the effects cannabis use has on driving including impacts on an individual’s cognitive ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, delays in response time, attention and coordination issues, and the ability to drive straight or ‘track’ and underscores the importance making smart decisions when deciding to operate a vehicle or be a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver may be cannabis-impaired.”

“Today’s young drivers in Massachusetts are the first generation to get behind the wheel since cannabis became legal in the state. Considering that, it is critically important they also understand how THC can impact the body including the risks associated with cannabis-impaired driving,” said Cannabis Control Commission Commissioner Kimberly Roy. “With today’s announcement, Massachusetts takes the lead in prevention and increasing awareness around this issue by providing every driver’s education student a comprehensive, evidence-based cannabis-impaired driving information curriculum to help them understand those risks and make safe decisions.”

“Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sheds light on the fact that in legalizing recreational marijuana, states face the consequential risk of increased cannabis-impaired driving,” said AAA Northeast President and CEO John Galvin.  “As a countermeasure, AAA Northeast developed a curriculum to educate young drivers on how THC impacts driving abilities. We are happy to share this curriculum with the Commonwealth to ensure every new driver licensed in Massachusetts will be equipped with the facts.”

“Law enforcement across Massachusetts fully supports education and awareness as a preventative measure to enhance public safety, especially amongst our most vulnerable drivers, said Newton Chief of Police John Carmichael. “This comprehensive driver’s education curriculum will teach student drivers the risks associated with impaired driving with an added emphasis on how cannabis may cause a diminished capacity to operate their vehicle safely.”