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As weed lovers prepare to light up at 4:20 on 4/20, MADD urges them to designate a driver

Cannabis 101: Here’s what you need to know about recreational marijuana

Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.

Planning to indulge in some high times at 4:20 p.m. on 4/20, the date when many people celebrate cannabis culture? If so, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is urging you to also plan a designated driver to avoid making a potentially tragic mistake.

The odds of being involved in a crash after 4:20 p.m. on April 20 is 12 percent higher in the United States than it is for the same period a week earlier, according to Canadian researchers who looked at 25 years’ worth of U.S. traffic data. For those under age 21, the risk increased by 38 percent.

The researchers – Dr. John A Staples and Dr. Donald Redelmeier – published their findings last year in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal. They said sales of legal marijuana surge ahead of 4/20 and college students report increased consumption on a date informally called the “High Holiday.”

In November 2016, Californians approved Proposition 64 to decriminalize personal possession and recreational use of specified amounts of marijuana on private property. Adults ages 21 and older can buy up to an ounce of marijuana daily at a licensed dispensary. Or, they can buy up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrates found in such edibles as butter, candies or brownies. (Be careful: Some edibles contain higher concentrates than others and could put them over the limit.)

Federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana, employers still can prohibit the use in the workplace, and use of the drug remains illegal when driving. MADD National President Helen Witty experienced a personal tragedy after a driver used marijuana, drank alcohol and got behind the wheel anyway.

“My 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was rollerblading on a bike path near our home when a marijuana- and alcohol-impaired teen driver ran off the road and struck her,” Whitty said in a news release. “Helen Marie died an instant, violent death, and my life changed forever.”

Combining both cannabis and alcohol is even more dangerous than using either substance alone, leading to greater impairment and a greater risk of getting into a crash, Whitty said. Ten states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana to be sold for recreational and medical use, and 23 others allow it sold in some form for only medical use.

As sales of legalized marijuana have expanded, the Governors Highway Safety Association has reported an increase in the number of drug-impaired drivers who suffered fatal injuries. The organization reviewed cases from 2016 where motorists died and drug test results were known, and it found that 44 percent of these drivers had both marijuana and opioids in their systems. That’s up from 28 percent just 10 years earlier.

420, also written as 4/20 and 4:20, purportedly originated in the 1970s at San Rafael High School where a group of students met at 4:20 p.m. on a number of occasions to go in search of an unattended crop of weed. They never found it, but they began to use “4:20” as a euphemism for marijuana use.

After California's passage of the Proposition 64 recreational marijuana initiative, authorities are on guard for impaired drivers for alcohol, pot, prescription drugs or all of the above. A Highway Patrol training supervisor explains the challenge

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