CT lawmaker wants teens to take course on risks of driving while high to get driver's license

Untrimmed buds of Ice Cream Cake cannabis plants are photographed in a Cure Room at the CTPharma cultivation facility in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, on December 13, 2022.

Untrimmed buds of Ice Cream Cake cannabis plants are photographed in a Cure Room at the CTPharma cultivation facility in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, on December 13, 2022.

Arnold Gold/Hearst Connecticut Media

A Connecticut lawmaker wants to require teenagers to undergo a course on the risks of driving while high on marijuana as one of the requirements to obtain a driver’s license.

State Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said the proposal is modeled off a similar law just implemented in Massachusetts, which requires teens to take a driver’s education course focused on the risks of cannabis-impaired driving. Massachusetts, which legalized recreational marijuana via a voter referendum in 2016, is the first state with legal weed to adopt the curriculum as part of driver’s education courses.

Cheeseman’s bill would require 16- and 17-year-olds seeking a driver’s license to complete a course, lasting at least four hours, on the effects and impact of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle. Connecticut teens seeking a driver’s license are already required to take a class on the dangers of driving after drug and alcohol use.

Cheeseman said legalization has sent the message to youth that marijuana is safe. “Unfortunately, the perception, particularly upon young people, is this is safe and that I can get behind the wheel stoned.” The state is seeing an increase in traffic deaths at the same time that recreational marijuana is going to be more widely available here, she said.

“I fought this tooth and nail from the beginning,” said Cheeseman, a staunch opponent of the legalization of marijuana. “It’s now legal. If we’ve made it legal, then we need to do everything in our power to limit the harm this legalization is going to cause.”

The curriculum adopted by Massachusetts explains the physical and cognitive processes that are affected by marijuana, shows a driver’s susceptibility to weed impairment and the potential severe consequences that can occur while high on marijuana. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles noted in announcing the course that this is the first generation of young drivers to be licensed since cannabis became legal in Massachusetts.

Connecticut’s adult-use cannabis law went into effect on July 1, 2021, which allows for possession and use of up to 1.5 oz of cannabis, with the first legal pot shops opening last week. Only those who are 21 and older can legally purchase recreational weed in Connecticut.