The effects of cannabis use and driving: what we know and don’t know

    Although cannabis legalization has made incredible progress in many states, there remains one area where cannabis laws are almost universally stuck in the last century: driving under the influence of cannabis. In spite of cannabis being legal in many states, most of those same states still have strict laws prohibiting motorists from driving with cannabis in their system. 

    Alcohol by contrast, has a “legal limit” of blood alcohol concentration before the driver is considered “intoxicated” or under the limit. This legal limit usually ranges from .05-.08% depending on the state and age of the driver. However, that legal threshold for intoxication was only after years of careful study by scientists. To date, there is no wide scientific agreement on the effects of cannabis on driving.

    It is important to note that driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal in most countries and subject to legal penalties. These penalties can include fines, loss of license points, suspension or revocation of driver’s license and even imprisonment, depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the incident.

    In 2013, a study looked at the results of 66 different scientific studies concerning driving under the influence of cannabis and found a slightly increased risk of fatal accident with cannabis use (1.26), but found that substances like sleep medication (2.60)  cocaine (2.96), amphetamines (5.71) all had much higher risk. Other studies have had conflicting results and shown different variables. 

    The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducted a study on cannabis and driving and realized that unlike alcohol, where crossing the blood alcohol threshold had similar effects on all drivers, there was no correlation between the amount of cannabis in a driver’s system and the degree to which their driving was impacted. In other words, you could have two drivers blow .09 on a breathalyzer and they would both be equally impaired (or close to it).

    Cannabis use can affect each person differently, and the effects can vary depending on the amount consumed, frequency of use and individual tolerance.

    However, two different drivers with the same concentration of THC in their system may exhibit almost entirely different levels of impairment. Furthermore, other studies show no demonstrable link between THC levels and increased crash risk by drivers. Now, the historical prohibition of cannabis has made even conducting research on cannabis and driving difficult. It is certainly an area in need of more study, as most cannabis users would undoubtedly want to consume it and drive responsibly. 

    With that said, wouldn’t it make sense for states not to just arrest drivers as a matter of general principle when they test positive for cannabis? The cannabis legalization process is a complicated one that will raise many new questions and this is one of them. G13 Magazine will keep you posted on new developments, but in the meantime, we suggest not driving if you have been consuming cannabis. 

    G13 Club is a private social club for medical and recreational cannabis users based in Barcelona. It is also a space for musical and artistic development that promotes a multitude of activities focused on the expression and exhibition of urban, hip hop, reggae and skate culture.

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