Springfield sees increased vigilance by law enforcement as floating season begins amidst marijuana legalization

Missouri State Highway Patrol emphasizes safety during Memorial Day weekend and urges responsible behavior
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:14 PM CDT|Updated: May. 26, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Memorial Day marks the official start of the floating season, and this year, the legalization of marijuana has raised questions about the activities allowed during float trips in Missouri.

As thousands of people prepare to hit the rivers, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is stepping up its efforts to ensure public safety, especially considering the potential impact of impaired driving due to marijuana use.

The Highway Patrol’s primary concern is to encourage responsible behavior and minimize risks associated with impaired driving. They emphasize that impairment, whether from marijuana or alcohol, poses a significant danger to individuals and others on the waterways.

“You can either go and get the munchies at the river or drive drunk and wreck into someone—it’s definitely safer than the alternative, you know?” Chase Hale, a Springfield local says.

He’s enjoying his long Memorial Day weekend at Crighton Park Access Point and shared his perspective on the impact of marijuana legalization.

“It may be slightly higher, but I think if you’re going to smoke, you’re going to smoke either way,” he said, acknowledging that the legalization may not drastically change the number of people smoking on float trips.

To ensure public safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Marine Division and local law enforcement agencies will have a fully staffed presence throughout the holiday weekend. Anticipating high traffic volume both on the roads and waterways due to favorable weather conditions, they are prepared for increased monitoring and enforcement.

“We’re not only going to have busy traffic on those travel days, but the waterways with the weather predicted are going to be busy as well,” Sgt. Michael McClure with the Missouri State Highway Patrol says.

According to Missouri’s marijuana laws, individuals must be 21 years or older to consume marijuana, and smoking in public spaces is generally prohibited. As most rivers and bodies of water in Missouri are considered public spaces, these regulations apply to float trips as well.

Despite the expected surge in visitors and calls during the holiday weekend, the focus of law enforcement will primarily be on ensuring safety rather than issuing tickets.

“It’s the ones that choose to be irresponsible in those areas, either driving a vehicle or operating a motorboat, that we’re going to have our eyes open for,” Sgt. McClure says.

In light of the potential effects of marijuana on driving ability, the Highway Patrol urges individuals to carefully assess their impairment levels before operating vehicles or engaging in any water activities. The combination of marijuana or alcohol consumption and extended periods on the river can significantly impact judgment and reaction times.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the Highway Patrol wants to remind everyone to anticipate heavy holiday traffic, particularly in areas near water bodies. They urge the public to remain patient and maintain a considerate attitude on the roads and at popular recreational spots.

The legalization of marijuana has brought new dynamics to the floating season, necessitating heightened vigilance by law enforcement. The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s message remains clear: prioritize safety, make responsible choices, and ensure an enjoyable and incident-free Memorial Day weekend on Missouri’s waterways.

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