This story is a staff report from The Paper.

With recreational cannabis sales set to begin this Friday, New Mexico law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers who are under the influence of cannabis.

In New Mexico, it’s illegal l for an adult to drive a vehicle who is under the influence of alcohol with an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher and/or any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.

“Driving under the influence of drugs, including cannabis, puts others at risk – plain and simple,” New Mexico Departent of Public Safety Secretary Jason R. Bowie said. “Drivers who are impaired to the slightest degree can go to jail. Just don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence.”

In 2021, the New Mexico Department of Public Safety received funding from legislators to train state police in the Drug Recognition Expert certification program. The program is designed to teach officers how to determine if a driver is operating their vehicle while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Officers who are trained through the Drug Recognition Expert program are trained to evaluate signs of impairment rather than relying solely on the smell of cannabis.

Cannabis has measurable physiological effects that impair drivers including delayed or decreased reaction time, decreased short-term memory, poor hand-eye coordination, lack of concentration, and a decreased perception of time and distance.

“If you choose to drink or use cannabis, remember there is no acceptable reason to drive under the influence,” chief of the New Mexico State Police Tim Johnson said. “New Mexico State Police officers patrol the highways every day to keep the roads safe and will be on the lookout for impaired drivers.”

A DWI conviction can have both civil and financial consequences. New Mexico drunk driving criminal court cases can result in punishment that includes jail time, fines, mandatory DWI educational programs, ignition interlock devices, and more. A DWI conviction may result in a driver’s license suspension from 90 days to one year or more.

State Police will continue to conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in all New Mexico counties, to raise awareness, educate, and enforce laws.