Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis

With marijuana becoming more commonplace, and even recreational marijuana being allowed in the horizon in Canada and already in several US states today, the question of cannabis and driving has been raised. Some who use marijuana feel that they could probably get behind the wheel and drive once they have ingested the cannabis. However, it is important to remember that you can’t truly judge your own impairment level, as noted by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

We know that driving under the influence of alcohol is highly dangerous, and it is against the law, just like driving under the influence of other drugs. In fact, studies have shown that driving while under the influence of both cannabis and alcohol can be even more dangerous. The alcohol could increase the rate of absorption of the THC, but it would also delay the arrival of alcohol impairment. People were drinking more without feeling drunk, and then it would hit them, along with the high. This would make them highly dangerous out on the road.

That being said, many cannabis users feel and argue that their driving is not affected by their cannabis use. A scientific study from 2015 on the effects of cannabis and driving performance concluded that it caused virtually no impairment when taken in moderate amounts.

What Do the Laws Say?

Driving under the influence of cannabis is treated very similarly to driving under the influence of other substances. Most jurisdictions have a zero-tolerance policy for driving while your faculties are impaired, regardless of the substance. In fact, the province of Ontario is adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward many drivers who use cannabis. Commercial truckers, motorists 21 and under, and novice drivers will now face harsh penalties if caught behind the wheel after smoking weed, Premier Kathleen Wynne confirmed.

In those states where marijuana is legal, such as Colorado, they are developing their own rules and legal limits. The law in CO says that if a driver has five nanograms of active THC in their system when they are pulled over, they can be prosecuted for DUI. Even if the levels are lower than this, the officers can still make an arrest based on their observations of someone’s impairment, such as driving recklessly.

Those who use marijuana medicinally rather than recreationally need to follow the same laws and regulations. If they take a substance that would impair their use of a motor vehicle, they are not allowed to get behind the wheel. There may be other laws in place, as well, such as having additional penalties added for driving while there are children in the vehicle. This can include child abuse charges.

That begs the question – what about users of CBD product with little to no THC? Currently, there is little to no guidance on this. Logically, it should reason that a medical user using CBD, which is akin to other over the counter medications, should be legally able to drive. Their ability to drive effectively is not impaired.

You will find that many of the laws have similarities to the alcohol laws. When you follow basic common sense and are careful about when and where you smoke, there won’t be a problem. Treat marijuana similarly to drinking alcohol. Just because you feel that you have a tolerance for cannabis does not mean you should go out and get behind the wheel. There is always a chance that you could cause an accident and hurt yourself or others, or worse.

Those who want to be good ambassadors for marijuana usage should show the naysayers that it is possible to use cannabis and still be responsible. Do not get behind the wheel to drive, even though you might feel as though you are fully capable? It is dangerous, and you do not want to be the cause of an accident. Like many of you, we are interested to see what legislation will look like for CBD users in the future.

How About Roadside Testing?

Unlike alcohol, there is no process to use to determine impairment based on contents of blood or saliva at an exact moment in time. While devices are coming out that show the level of THC in a driver’s system, we can’t rely on those tests as THC can remain in our blood or saliva for a few days, if not more.

For now, impairment from cannabis will have to be up to the officer’s subjective discretion.