The United Way of Colchester County’s executive director Terry Hearn, front right, presented a cheque to MADD Cobequid president Kay Foster-Alfred for the purchase of a marijuana simulation kit. Front, from left, Wade Alfred, Alex Fraser (granddaughter of the Alfreds), Foster-Alfred, Hearn. Second row, Ken Fitzgerald, Shirley Quigley, Shirley Christensen and Joy LeFresne-Fitzgerald, all of MADD Cobequid. Submitted photo

TRURO – The local chapter of MADD Canada has a new tool at its disposal – a marijuana simulation kit.

Kay Foster-Alfred, the president of MADD Cobequid, said the United Way of Colchester granted a funding application to purchase the kit and extra goggles for the organization.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Foster-Alfred. “We have fatal vision goggles that emulate the various degrees of impairment by alcohol, but this kit is more than that. Through this kit, you experience the disfunction, and how marijuana impacts on your focus, and your hand-eye coordination.”

Recent demonstrations saw members of the chapter test out the goggles, and Foster-Alfred said they are geared toward any age level, including those in elementary school grades.

“Professors and medical personnel have all said you can’t start too early educating about drug impairment and now that we have this kit, we’re hoping to be getting into schools at all levels. It’s just as important as showcasing the fatal vision goggles.”

The chapter president said one of the things they’re trying to communicate is that marijuana use does affect a person’s focus.

“There are other organizations out there trying to tell users you’re sharper, but that’s not the case,” she said. “You can focus on one thing, yes, but you can’t focus on others at the same time.”

She uses driving a car as an example, and says it’s more than just driving along the line. Drivers, she said, are constantly shifting their focus to keep an eye out for things such as stop signs, pedestrians, and animals.

“So this is something we’re very eager to get out there.”

Along with schools, Foster-Alfred said the Cobequid chapter will also be looking for public opportunities and events to give the community the experience. It’s even more important now, she said, with the federal government bringing in the legalization of recreational marijuana use this coming summer.

“People really need to be warned about what happens when marijuana is legalized. In Colorado, when marijuana was legalized, immediately their (motor vehicle) fatalities by drug impairment doubled. When you have 20 to 30 fatalities in Nova Scotia every year by drug impairment, you can expect to see that double. That doesn’t include those with injuries,” she said, adding “we’re not ready for this.”

Foster-Alfred said some laws need to be changed before legalization should occur, and police forces need more time.

“We need to make sure police are equipped and ready to go, and that they have the support they need when it does become legalized,” she said.

Much like the alcohol fatal vision goggles, MADD Cobequid plans to loan out the marijuana simulation kit to police forces when requested.

“I’ve seen it in action and it’s amazing how it hits people,” she said, of watching people try out the kit. “It’s definitely something that affected them more than they expected.

“We really can’t wait to get it out there and we’ll be looking at opportunities for public events. If people want us to be part of their event, we’d be more than happy to participate.”