‘Kourtroom Kush’: New RIDE campaign uses pot lingo to warn about driving stoned

Packed with “regret, shame and guilt,” a puff of Kourtroom Kush is “an emotional joyride that doesn’t end well.”

It sounds almost like the description of a pot product you might purchase at a downtown marijuana dispensary, but “Kourtroom Kush”, along with “White Whiplash” and “Slammer Time,” all play on slang terms used to describe marijuana and are part of a new holiday road safety effort being unveiled Wednesday.

They are the three “Consequence Strains” in a campaign by R.I.D.E Checks — an organization that works with police services to promote road safety — aimed at illuminating the consequences of driving stoned.  “We kind of want to get the message out there in their language,” said Lorne Simon, founder of R.I.D.E Checks. “We don’t want to do the shock value because [research] shows that shock value doesn’t work with that younger market.”

R.I.D.E Checks has operated in collaboration with police services for 10 years but traditionally the message is about drinking and driving. This year, for the first time, they are targeting marijuana users and specifically younger people.  “Younger people seem to get the alcohol message that there are choices out there especially in the GTA, like Uber, TTC and designated drivers, but in our research and our focus groups, they really don’t know a lot about driving high,” Simon said.

“It’s still impairment, it’s still the same consequences. Either you kill innocent people or you kill yourself.”

The “Consequence Strains” campaign includes a short video with audio from a number of marijuana users who participated in a focus group for R.I.D.E Checks.  A woman can be heard saying she’s “able to focus more” on driving when she’s high. A man can be heard saying he is “strongly against drinking and driving” calling it “inappropriate” and “selfish,” but he goes on to say he has “a completely different perspective of driving high.”

Drinking and driving is still on their radar, but Lorne Simon points out half a million people said they drove high in the last year and with the legalization of marijuana now half a year away, “we are going to need to start driving that message a little stronger,” he said.

R.I.D.E Checks is launching the new campaign at Humber College Lake Shore Campus in collaboration with the Ontario Provincial Police and various municipal police services.  They picked Humber because more than 1,000 students are expected to be there, a direct hit at reaching that target younger audience.

Toronto impairment arrests on the decline

Currently, no roadside biological test has been approved to detect marijuana use, like a breathalyzer for alcohol.

“If a person is operating impaired by a drug instead of alcohol it does not mean we can’t charge them,” said Const. Clint Stibbe with Toronto Police Traffic Services. “It just means we need to go a bit of a different route in order to get the evidence we need to lay the charge, but it is not something that is new to us, and we are becoming more effective.”

If a driver fails a roadside sobriety observation test, they will go back to a police station for an assessment by a drug recognition officer who will conduct biological impairment testing.

So far in 2017, the Toronto Police Service says 1,048 people have been arrested for alcohol impairment and 56 have been arrested for drug impairment.  Last year by this time, the numbers were higher. There were 1,108 arrests for alcohol impairment and 77 arrests for drug impairment.   “That being said, the reality is, even one is one too many,” Stibbe said.

Some police forces have already begun spot-check programs, but Wednesday is the official launch, and it will run straight through the month of December.

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