NSC to NY governor: Prioritize worker, roadway safety if legalizing recreational marijuana

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Itasca, IL — The National Safety Council is concerned about a measure included in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) recent budget proposal that would legalize recreational marijuana use and is offering recommendations.

If the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (S.B. 7509/A. 9509) becomes law, New York would become the 12th state to end the prohibition of adult-use recreational marijuana.

In a Feb. 20 letter sent to Cuomo, NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin highlights data showing marijuana use and positive tests have increased as more state laws have changed.

“NSC believes that all forms of impairment present a serious threat to safety at work and on the road by increasing the risk of preventable injury and death,” Martin writes. “Workers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or other impairing drugs (legal or illegal) endanger themselves and those around them.”

Martin argues that driving while under the influence of an impairing substance such as marijuana endangers all roadway users, and cites multiple reports of fatal motor vehicle crashes involving positive tests of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – doubling in Washington state since marijuana was decriminalized. Additionally, without proven scientific testing for marijuana impairment, determining whether a driver is impaired is impossible.

The letter offers the following recommendations to the governor:

  • Ensure workers in safety-sensitive jobs are ready to work impairment-free and be sure to verify this.
  • Allow employers to test for impairing substances – regardless of the legal status of the substance and whether it was used on or off the job – to ensure a substance-free workplace.
  • Provide appropriate funding to increase use, and enhance training, of drug recognition experts.
  • Don’t establish limits as a means to identify marijuana impairment, because no scientific basis for the adoption of THC laws exists.
  • Ensure impaired driving surveillance systems are updated and have the ability to monitor drug-impaired driving. This includes guaranteeing data linkage (e.g., between police records and hospital data) and standardizing the drug testing panel among all state labs.

Copies of the letter were sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).

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