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People on cannabis are dangerous on the road, but not as much as you think

Posted May 12, 2019

The use of cannabis is on the rise. And it will be for a very long time, because more and more countries are legalizing recreational use of cannabis. But this does create some problems. One of them is people driving high. Typically laws forbid driving under the influence, but is it a right approach? Scientists from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney decided to find out.

Cannabis does impair driver’s judgement and functions, but not as much as prescription drugs or alcohol. Image credit: Bogdan via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Most typical cannabis on the streets contains high concentrations of THC, which provides that “high” that people are looking for. Cannabidiol (CBD), another important compound in cannabis, offers many health benefits, but its concentrations in recreational cannabis are actually lower. CBD is not intoxicating and generally would be safe to use before driving – THC is causing problem.

People using marijuana for medical reasons are typically told not to drive. In fact, in many countries it is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in the system. Scientists found that THC does not impair driver’s functions like alcohol, or prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and opioids. This does suggest that some liberalization of the laws could be possible.

Scientists invited 14 volunteers to participate in the study. Some were given THC-dominant cannabis, others – cannabis containing equal amounts of THC and CBD. Control group was given a placebo. Scientists found that those who consumed THC-dominant cannabis were reluctant to drive and felt impaired. When they were driving in a simulator, they were being very careful and slow. However, they were weaving out of their lane a lot, making themselves quite a hazard on a road.

Those who consumed cannabis with equal amounts of CBD and THC were less likely to weave about, but more likely to speed and not maintain a safe distance with a car in front. However, both groups were not driving tremendously terribly when compared to the placebo group. This could suggest that mild concentrations of THC could be allowed, but more research is needed to confirm that.

Interestingly, scientists did not find a significant difference in impairment between  THC-dominant and THC/CBD cannabis. Recent studies have shown that CBD negates some of the impairment caused by THC, but in this case it was not the case. Some participants reported being even more high. But then again, this study involved 14 people only, which makes it difficult to draw strong conclusions.

There will be more and more people who want to drive on cannabis. It is not safe and you should be sober if you are planning to drive. However, testing procedures should be more countable and accurate and laws should state the limits.


Source:  University of Sydney

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