The Problem with Using 'Marijuana Goggles'

September 29th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Students from high schools throughout Hancock County, Indiana were among the first to try out new technology that supposedly allows users to see through the eyes of a stoner.

In a recent report from WISH-TV, members of the Hancock County Youth Council tested "marijuana goggles," wearable instruments that are meant to simulate the "distinct cognitive impairment resulting from recreational marijuana use."

The purpose of these "Fatal Vision" marijuana goggles (patent pending) is to show students what it's like to drive while high — part of the school system's ongoing efforts to combat teen drug use. In theory, they distort the visual perception of whoever is wearing the goggles; in practice, they really just prevent people from seeing the color red, making it difficult to successfully perform the simulated driving exercise that come with the $1,000 to 2,000 Fatal Vision kit.

marijuana goggles

Tim Retherford, who runs the Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse organization in Hancock County, purchased a set of marijuana goggles for the youth council in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of drugged driving. "Anytime you can do an activity—something that’s interactive with them, or something that provides education, that’s great," Retherford told WISH-TV.

"These actually simulate the loss of some of your cognitive functions."

To be sure, driving while under the influence of any illicit substance is not advised, but the suggestion that this goggle technology accurately reproduces the experience of being high is misguided. First of all, you don't lose the ability to see any color when you're high. Taking away the color red would make it more challenging to see some traffic signs and brake lights, but that is not what happens when you smoke pot.

So yes, it makes sense that wearing these goggles would cause students to take longer—approximately four times longer—to complete a simple maze that was included in the Fatal Vision Marijuana Simulation Experience kit but that only goes to show that people with certain types of colorblindness should be cautious about driving.

Here's how the company behind Fatal Vision describes the technology of marijuana goggles:

"The green lens is one component of the marijuana goggle to help demonstrate the distorted processing of visual information. The eyes are one source of information that the mind uses to make a decision. The green lens acts as a filter that screens out potentially important information needed to make a decision in the specifically designed activities. The included activities use this filter to demonstrate how loss of information processing and altered visual perception might result in potentially severe consequences."

What these marijuana goggles really do is promote false ideas about marijuana use, relying on fear tactics to persuade teens not to touch pot. As experts have argued, and as cultural perceptions change, it is better to provide students with a scientifically-backed drug education so that they can make informed decisions on their own. Odds are, someone is eventually going to tell these teens that smoking pot does not cause you to lose the ability to see red.

In the WISH-TV report, high school senior Keelie Baker says that "it's very important to realize that these might not be the exact results, but these are very close to exactly what some people in our community are going out and driving in."

ATTN: reached out to Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse and Innocorp (which makes the Fatal Vision marijuana goggles), but a representative for these organizations could not be reached by the time of publication.

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