South Dakota looks to ban smoking cannabis and driving

Published Feb 13, 2021 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Martin Holverda

Residents of South Dakota have voted to legalize cannabis. Amendment A would see cannabis legalized in all forms in the state. Amendment A would also allow residents to grow, sell and license marijuana legally. On Feb 8, 2021, House Bill 1061, which would ban smoking cannabis in a motor vehicle and set the violation's penalties, was considered in the South Dakota house.

The bill was bought forward for discussion after the November voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana and medical marijuana. The newly proposed legislation will take effect on July 1, 2021. Those 21 and older will be able to legally possess one ounce of marijuana, and three plants, with no more than 8 grams of the one-ounce in a concentrated form. Registered medical cannabis users will be entitled to possess up to three ounces of weed and six plants.

HB 1061

This bill has the sponsorship of multiple senators and representatives. The bill would see anyone who is caught smoking cannabis or cannabis concentrate while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway or right-of-way that leads to the public highway, would be the recipient of a Class 2 misdemeanour.

Research

PSB Research and Buzzfeed News conducted a study that indicated half of the Americans who participated believed that it was safe to drive, and smoke weed. The Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal in early 2020 published a study that found those who smoked cannabis before the age of 16 displayed impaired driving abilities for an extended period of time after toking. An interesting point from the study indicated that medical marijuana users did not show the same signs. However, there is enough medical and scientific evidence to know that cannabis does affect one's actions, just like alcohol.

Effects of weed on the brain

Cannabis can be responsible for having a peculiar effect on the brain’s cerebellum. Motor functioning is dependent on the cerebellum, which is why any amount of marijuana taken can make it tough to multitask cognitive actions, including avoiding potholes, following the GPS, or staying in your lane on the road. Cannabis effects are far more subjective than those of alcohol, and they do differ from person to person.

Some studies indicate that smoking recreational weed may have the driver overcompensating by driving with extreme caution. However, this information needs more objective research before these claims can be officially supported. Research conducted by Canada's McGill University indicates that after smoking weed, one should wait at least 5 hours before getting behind the wheel and operating a motor vehicle.

Final thoughts

While under the influence of any drug, be it alcohol or cannabis, operating a motor vehicle is illegal and a dangerous action undertaken by too many today. If passed, House Bill 1061 will be a positive move forward in keeping people safe while travelling the roads and highways. The house bill will help ensure that medical or recreational cannabis use behind the wheel is not accepted or legal. The effort South Dakota is putting forth is in the hopes of keeping the public and drivers safe is commendable.

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