It’s one of the most hotly debated subjects in the world when it comes to cannabis consumption and the cannabis lifestyle in general. In addition, it’s also a surprisingly unexplored topic in an official capacity. Right now, with more countries, states and regions all over the world giving the green light to medicinal and/or recreational cannabis, the subject of driving while under the influence of cannabis is one that can no longer be ignored.
With the recent legalization vote, tens more millions of American citizens who will soon be able to legally access cannabis in one form or another. Which also means tens more millions who may need to think carefully about the subject of driving and cannabis.
The problem is that just like with most controversial subjects, the vast majority prefer to sweep it all to one side and ignore it. As far as cannabis critics are concerned, taking to the wheel after having consumed cannabis any time in the last few days/weeks is every bit as serious as drinking heavily and taking to the roads. By contrast, cannabis advocates insist that weed really isn’t in the same league as alcohol when it comes to its effects on drivers. In fact, there are actually quite a number of stern cannabis advocates who believe it makes them safer drivers.
Now, if you were to approach the subject from a neutral, common sense perspective, you would probably reach the conclusion that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. While it’s probably fair to say that a tiny amount of cannabis in your system isn’t quite the same as a full bottle of Jack Daniels, absolutely anything that impairs your reaction times, alertness or decision-making skills isn’t advisable when getting behind the wheel. Nevertheless, it becomes very difficult to control something or even discuss the subject rationally when there are so many conflicting opinions.
So with this in mind, we thought it might be a good idea to provide frank and truthful answers to some of the most important questions with regard to cannabis and driving.
Does Cannabis Impair Driving The Way Alcohol Does?
The answer to this question…well, it all comes down to exactly who you decide to ask. For example, the results of certain studies suggest that since recreational cannabis was approved in Colorado back in 2013, the number of cannabis-related traffic deaths statewide has apparently increased by 48%. However, official studies carried out by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that when taking into account every important variable, the legalization of cannabis does not seem to have had any real impact whatsoever on the number of drug-related accidents or fatalities on the roads. In addition, the same report stated outright that alcohol is still considered by a wide margin to be the single most dangerous substance to use before driving a vehicle of any kind.
These particular findings were also mirrored by a study carried out by the Department Of Transportation back in 1993. In this instance, those carrying out the study found that “THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small” when compared to those of alcohol. Nevertheless, those behind the study insisted that it still isn’t a good idea to drive while under the influence of any drug whatsoever, given the way in which most recreational drugs have the potential to impair driving ability.
Do All Cannabis Strains Affect Driving Ability To The Same Extent?
In a word, no…and this is where things get extremely complicated. One of the biggest problems with the subject in general and indeed why there is such conflict of opinion is the way in which different strains of cannabis have entirely different effects on those consuming them. While one strain of cannabis might fill you with energy and alertness, another will make it borderline impossible for you to even keep your eyes open. Likewise, while one strain of cannabis may put you in the most positive and vibrant mood imaginable, another may fill you with a deep sense of anxiety and paranoia…depending on who you are.
With alcohol, things tend to be a lot more predictable. An individual’s tolerance to alcohol may be entirely different to that of any other person, but the general effects to expect from alcohol consumption are relatively consistent. Not only this, but alcoholic products all have the same effect, regardless of the product’s recipe, formula and method of ingestion. Which is precisely why some insist that their own cannabis consumption habits have no detrimental effect whatsoever on their driving – some insisting that weed actually makes them better drivers.
Is It Legal To Drive While Impaired By Cannabis?
In a word, no. The simple fact of the matter is that in the vast majority of countries, regions, states and so on, it is illegal to drive under the influence of anything that may impair your ability to drive safely. From prescription medication to OTC drugs to recreational drugs and so on, if you put yourself and others at risk due to what’s in your system at the time, you are technically violating safe driving laws. And of course, it’s technically up to the authorities to determine whether what you have in your system constitutes a danger to yourself and others – it’s not your call to make. At least, when it comes to prosecution, that is.
Is There An Effective Way To Test For Cannabis Impairment?
At the moment, not even close. The reason being that the only way of gauging exactly how much THC is in a person’s system is to carry out a blood test. For obvious reasons, this cannot be done routinely at the side of the road. Not only this, but even in instances where these blood tests come back with positive results, THC has the potential to stay in a person’s system for days, even weeks after being consumed. Which technically means that if you had a heavy night on Monday and are tested for drug-driving Thursday, you could well find yourself under fire for driving under the influence…even though you weren’t. Suffice to say, it’s an imperfect system and one that needs quite a few major improvements.
So What Should I Do?
Pulling all the pieces together therefore, the most sensible advice for anyone is also the simplest…don’t take the risk. Even if you yourself think that your cannabis consumption isn’t having a negative effect on your driving, this most certainly isn’t the assumption of those looking to bust you. If cannabis does have an adverse effect on your driving, you are putting yourself and everyone else around your at risk by driving under the influence. And if it doesn’t, you are still putting yourself at risk of losing your license, or maybe even spending a fair bit of time behind bars…depending on where you live.