Long Beach, California Tackles Stoned Driving with Safety Program

December 19, 2023 · High Times

Long Beach, California is developing ways to teach local residents how to responsibly consume cannabis without getting behind the wheel. Given that cannabis sales in Long Beach contributed more tax revenue in 2022 than oil, it’s a big facet of the city and leaders hope to keep cannabis use safer. 

The City of Long Beach announced that its Department of Health and Human Services was awarded a $285,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to educate locals about responsible cannabis use and its goal to reduce cannabis-impaired driving related collisions.

“This grant fuels the City’s ongoing effort to keep everyone on our roadways safe,” said Mayor Rex Richardson. “It’s important that people get informed. This means, the public should know that driving under the influence includes cannabis, illegal substances, and even some medications.”

The Health Department’s GreenlightLB Program will utilize grant funds to support activities that aim to educate community members about the dangers of driving while impaired by cannabis and drugs, as well as promote safer choices, including safe driving behaviors. The funding will be allocated to support several activities between Oct. 1, 2023, and Sept. 30, 2024, including the following:

  • DUI-Drug prevention workshops for high school and college age students to address the risks of driving while impaired and promote the use of transportation alternatives.
  • Community partnerships to advance health equity through bilingual and bicultural workshops on drug-impaired traffic safety.
  • E-scooter/E-Bike campaign to remind users that riding under the influence is both unsafe and against the law.
  • Peer-to-peer youth program to empower youth to actively promote traffic safety.
  • Collaboration with dispensaries to educate consumers about safe and responsible cannabis use and the risks of cannabis-impaired driving.
  • Enhanced drug-impaired driving awareness through print and digital media resources and coordination of Long Beach Safe Streets Awareness Week.
  • Pop-up events that promote the importance of safe and responsible driving.

“Our top priority is the safety of our community,” said Acting Health Department Director Alison King. “The efforts funded by OTS allow for evidence-based programs to increase awareness and help everyone make informed decisions and eliminate drug-impaired driving in Long Beach.”

What Long Beach is Doing to Promote Safety

The city has been busy with initiatives to promote safety. Last year, the program reached 2,000 community members via the following methods:

  • 35 drug-impaired driving community presentations and youth-focused workshops.
  • 16 educational outreach tables and pop-ups to promote safer driving.
  • The graduation of 14 students from across five Long Beach schools for the Safe Streets Ambassador program.
  • Co-hosting the fourth annual Long Beach Safe Streets Awareness week.
  • Conducting the annual city-wide cannabis and health assessment.

“Getting in a vehicle remains one of the most dangerous things we do,” said California Office of Traffic Safety Director Barbara Rooney. “We must continue to work with our partners to shift that realization and make traveling on our roads safer.”

It marks the seventh year the city’s Health Department has received an OTS grant for these purposes. The activities funded by this grant are in line with the Health Department’s plan to further develop a safe approach to responsible cannabis use. GreenlightLB’s program activities are also designed to advance goals identified in the City’s Safe Streets Action Plan to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2026.  

Long Beach Lowers Taxes

Last April, the city announced it would lower cannabis tax rates in an effort to generate more revenue.

The Signal Tribune reported that after the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the tax rate change, the Office of Cannabis Oversight began to establish a plan to lower taxes for recreational and medical cannabis use. The lower tax rates will be established as part of the city’s 2024 annual budget. 

“We should be aiming to create a positive feedback loop: reduce the tax burden on local operators, allow them to be competitive and expand their businesses, while rewarding those high road employers and operators who make investments back into our community, all while nurturing a new revenue source for the city,” said Councilmember Joni Ricks-Oddie.

Long Beach is home to 32 retail cannabis stores and 37 cultivators. Since recreational cannabis use became legal in California in 2016, the tax rate in Long Beach was set at 8% for adult-use sales, 6% for medical-use sales, 1% for lab testing receipts, as well as $13.70 per square foot of canopy under cultivation. There is also a 10.25% general sales tax in California. 

Lowering cannabis tax rates is expected to cause an increase in legal cannabis sales, designed to attract people avoiding taxes. (Full Story)

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