PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On this April 20 and with the 420ish Festival only a few days away, AAA of Tidewater has important reminders about marijuana consumption and possession for drivers.
It’s the first 4/20, a date celebrated by marijuana users, since recreational marijuana use was legalized in the commonwealth.
The inaugural 420ish Festival is bringing big names like Rick Ross, Gucci Mane, and City Girls to the Portsmouth Sportsplex this weekend, but, as previously reported, concerns arose surrounding whether people would be allowed to use marijuana at the 420-themed festival.
Portsmouth Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes says he and other city leaders are excited about the event and say they spoke with organizers about the concern.
“We’ve communicated to the organizers that they have to do the best that they can with making sure that smoking doesn’t occur during the festival,” he said. “But we all know that it’s not much that they can really do when trying to stop it cause people going to do what they want.”
The festival comes after months of back and forth about permits between organizers and city leadership, something Barnes says shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
“I think we fumbled as a city as a government, but I’m looking forward to a successful event from the organizers,” he said. “They seem to really be on their stuff and really making it right.”
Holly Dalby from AAA of Tidewater says marijuana use impacts drivers in many ways including blurring their peripheral vision, slowing their reaction times, and a driver’s ability to stay in a lane.
“It goes into our fat cells and it’s released more slowly over time so people can actually still be impaired after they have stopped feeling the effects of it,” she said.
Marijuana possession laws are also different for drivers than alcohol laws.
“There’s no open container of cannabis in the passenger compartment of the vehicle,” she said. “So not only can the driver not consume, but passengers cannot consume as well.”
Studies from states like Colorado and Washington have shown increases in accidents and insurance claims in the years after recreational marijuana use was legalized.
In Washington, they saw crashes and fatalities of drivers under the influence increased as much as 200% in the decade following legalization.
Still, city leaders remain optimistic about the economic impacts the festival could have on the city.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people to Portsmouth. It’s going to be good for our businesses,” said Barnes. “Just come to the city. Make sure you spend your money at all our restaurants and all the things we have to offer.”
The Festival runs from April 23-24 at the Portsmouth Sportsplex.