September 18, 2017

Marijuana report eyed for July 2018

File photo
A study detailing the effects of marijuana use is due around the same time that pot shops can begin opening.

The results of a one-year study addressing marijuana use, related risk behaviors, and the state of science capable of measuring marijuana impairment are set to be released in July 2018, around the same time that retail pot shops could be opening their doors to customers.

Public health professors Rosa Rodríguez-Monguió and Jennifer Whitehill of the UMass-Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences are leading the mandated research in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute and staff at the state Department of Public Health.

Whitehill, an injury prevention researcher, also plans to report on the current state of the science on measuring marijuana impairment in relation to driving, an issue lawmakers are grappling with as the state implements a recreational marijuana ballot law. Some police departments use blood tests, researchers said Friday, while others rely on experts to detect behavioral signs of impairment and oral fluid tests for THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, are sometimes used in other countries.

"The relationship between measurable levels of THC and driving impairment is complex, and there are no scientifically-established standards at which marijuana-using drivers can unquestionably be considered impaired. It's a much more complicated picture for determining marijuana impairment compared to alcohol impairment," Whitehill said in a statement.

Whitehill and Rodríguez-Monguió have also designed a statewide survey, according to UMass.

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