The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to spend a $239,000 grant on a yearlong public education campaign to warn Long Beach drivers against driving under the influence of cannabis. Recreational cannabis sales are scheduled to begin in some California cities on January 1, and many cities like Long Beach are attempting to brace for the overall impact of recreational sales.
In addition, an online survey is currently collecting data from Long Beach residents to consider public opinion about how to move forward with cannabis.
Last January, the Long Beach City Council voted to ask the city’s health department to development an educational program and to include facts about driving under the influence of cannabis. “We’re hoping the dispensaries will partner with us to display literature at the dispensaries,” Councilwoman Suzie Price told the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “Marijuana can affect people differently depending on its potency, depending on their tolerance level.”
Nearly 13 percent of nighttime drivers during 2013-2014 tested positive to driving under the influence of cannabis, according to the National Roadside Survey released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA, admitted in the same survey, however, that trace amounts of cannabis can be detected in the bloodstream long after the effects have worn off.
Cannabis’ impact on driving ability is an entirely different beast than driving on alcohol, however. Number one, cannabis is fat-soluble, meaning it can linger in the body for weeks or months, unlike alcohol or many other drugs. Secondly, cannabis roadside tests are not yet accurate, according to NPR. Cannabis, of course, does not impair driving skills at the same rate that alcohol does.
The 239,000 grant will fund the program and make it clear to Long Beachers that while cannabis is legal, driving under the influence is not. November 15, the Long Beach City Council voted to develop policies that would allow recreational cannabis sales under Proposition 64, with Price voting “no.”