VOLUME 3, ISSUE 3
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A growing number of states are legalizing marijuana use or approving cannabis for medicinal purposes, so Texas is trying to prepare for the safety implications on the state's transportation system — if legislators from the Lone Star State follow suit.
Marijuana and transportation safety was one of the major topics of this year’s Texas Impaired Driving Forum in Austin, Feb. 7. A record number of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, traffic safety experts, medical personnel, city and state officials and safe-driving advocates registered for the annual one-day forum.
“One of our speakers said ‘it’s not a matter of if, but when Texas passes cannabis legislation," Paige Ericson-Graber, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) associate transportation researcher, said about one of the more popular presentations.
“One of our speakers said ‘it’s not a matter of if, but when Texas passes cannabis legislation,’” Paige Ericson-Graber, TTI associate transportation researcher said about one of the more popular presentations.
Ericson-Graber organized the 2018 Texas Statewide Impaired Driving Forum, which was hosted by TTI, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and TTI’s Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies (CADES).
In his presentation, entitled Legalized Recreational Marijuana, Loveland, Colorado Police Chief Robert Ticer examined some of the impacts and transportation enforcement challenges of Colorado’s 2012 legalization, which allows adults to grow, possess and use marijuana.
TTI Research Scientist Troy Walden agrees that it’s just a matter of time before some form of marijuana legislation is approved in Texas, pointing to a recent statewide survey that indicates almost 50 percent of Texans favor the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes. “Understanding how legislation will impact traffic safety in Texas is crucial so we can develop a sensible law enforcement policy.”
For the first time this year, forum attendees were able to choose from three breakout session focus areas, or tracks: alcohol, drug, and prosecutor/judges/law enforcement tracks. This year’s keynote speaker was Michael Chacon, TxDOT’s director of traffic operations. (See Impaired Driving Forum agenda here.)
“There are so many traffic safety issues related to alcohol and drug use, so this forum is a great way to bring all the stakeholders together for outreach and education,” Walden, CADES director, said of the annual gathering.
“The number of alcohol-related traffic deaths has remained pretty steady over the last 10 years or so. However, marijuana-related traffic deaths appear to be dramatically increasing. It’s clear we have a lot of work to do, and we need to put more of our emphasis on drug-related transportation safety,” Walden said.