So, let’s say you just smoked a joint and the munchies are coming in strong but you don’t have anything to eat at home. How long should you wait before you drive? Well, according to a study done by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego, cannabis users may be impaired as long as 4 hours after consumption.
The study gathered 191 users and created a simulated driving experience. They found that cannabis can impair the user’s ability to drive, even up to 4 hours after consumption for some users. Participants who smoked cannabis noted a lack of confidence in their ability to drive at the 30-minute mark but that at 1 hour and 30 minutes they felt more clear and able to drive. Thomas Marcotte, the Senior author for the research conducted, added “This may indicate a false sense of safety, and these first few hours may constitute a period of greatest risk since users are self-evaluating whether it is safe to drive.” Unlike alcohol, how intoxicated(high) someone is cannot be determined via breathalyser. “The complete lack of correlation between blood concentrations and driving performance was somewhat surprising…its strong evidence against developing ‘per se’ driving under the influence statutes.” Co-author Robert Fitzgerald said in a news release.
As with any psychoactive substance, I believe that there should be a level of accountability when it comes to operating heavy machinery or vehicles, especially if other people can be affected. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is something that can be measured using a breathalyzer to determine the level of intoxication for a driver, however cannabis, while also intoxicating, cannot be measured to the same degree. We currently do not have a way to measure the toxicity of a cannabis user, but I am really excited to see that technology emerge.
I see a potentially gray area when it comes to law enforcement trying to crack down on drivers who are under the influence of cannabis. I think it is extremely important for there to be a standard or way to measure THC levels in the body. Cannabis does not fit into the same category of alcohol-impaired driving and since ‘per se’ laws are based on a legal standard being violated – ie. blood alcohol content – there are no grounds to say how cannabis users are in violation.
This study concluded that policymakers need a better understanding of how the effects of cannabis can affect drivers and I fully agree with that sentiment. In the growing anticipation for federal legalization, I think it is important for there to be a reliable way to determine the level of intoxication a person is after consuming cannabis. I can see this even becoming a tool used for social consumption establishments that could one day use a breathalyzer of some sort to measure the toxicity of a cannabis user or even just for personal use to determine if a user should or should not operate their vehicle.
Overall I am really excited to see research on this topic! I anticipate more research on the topics of driving within the lens of consumption methods (smoking, edibles, tinctures), how each individual experiences cannabis, and the overall relationship with cannabis for each individual.
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