If there is a question at all about whether driving a two ton vehicle under the euphoric influence of marijuana is alright because it is possibly less dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, then that is a strong misconception. To place lives at any more danger than they already are from massive pieces of reinforced metal traveling at incredibly high speeds is not only irresponsible but also naive.
Researchers and business entrepreneurs are working hard to discover a tool that will allow police to conduct a roadside test that can detect active THC in a driver’s system beyond the permissible amount. What the permissible amount is, is an entirely different question. But, it is very important that police have a way of detecting active THC because once it has deactivated it cannot cause euphoria. It continues to stay in the system for a long time afterwards since the body takes a while to metabolize it. Are you under the strong misconception that driving while high is alright?
Imagine a time when it wasn’t accepted that drunk driving made you more likely to get in an accident, when there wasn’t consensus about what constitutes drunk driving, nary a clue about how to measure your impairment, and no idea about whether anti-drunk driving laws were necessary or how they should work. All of this happened with alcohol, and it’s happening again with cannabis.
Cannabis is legal to some extent in a majority of states, and while it is generally accepted that cannabis use overall has grown in the past 10 years, there is no evidence that marijuana use in states where it has been legalized has contributed to more fatal car crashes than in states where it is illegal.
Nope. Alcohol is legal, but drunk driving isn’t. Codeine and oxycodone are legal, too, if prescribed by your doctor, but it’s illegal to drive under their influence. Similarly, it is illegal, even in places where cannabis is legal for recreational use, and yes, even if you have been okayed to use it for medical reasons, to drive while you’re impaired by marijuana. Period.
Define “a little high.” (Anti-drunk driving activists might similarly ask you to define “buzzed” or “a little drunk”.) The problem is that nobody really knows what “impairment” means when it comes to cannabis. You might have seen charts that tell you, based on your sex and weight, how many alcoholic drinks consumed over how many hours are likely to qualify you as impaired or intoxicated.
But alcohol is unique. It is relatively simple to track the way that it is absorbed, distributed, and eliminated from the body (its pharmacokinetics) and how those processes affect your brain and body (its pharmacodynamics) but these processes are far more complex and variable for drugs, including cannabis; at this point we don’t know enough to make up a similar chart for weed. The presence of THC—the primary psychoactive component in cannabis—in the driver’s body has not been shown to be a reliable measure of driver impairment.
Peer-reviewed research suggests that cannabis users wait a minimum of three to four hours after use before driving; NORML, a non-profit that works to legalize cannabis, suggests that users not drive while they feel impaired which, yes, includes feeling “a little high” or “buzzed.”
Does consuming cannabis impair your driving ability? Contribute to car crashes? Dunno. Though it’s generally agreed upon that you shouldn’t drive if you feel even “a little high,” as mentioned above, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is struggling to find concrete answers to these more specific questions. Their July 2017 report to Congress on “marijuana-impaired driving” points out that currently, no one has figured out how to measure how stoned someone is just sitting on their couch, let alone developed a tool—akin to the breathalyzer—that can quickly and accurately be used roadside by law enforcement.
From driving simulation research we know that using cannabis has been shown to impair key driving-related skills including reaction time, tracking ability, and target detection; cognitive skills like judgment, anticipation, and divided attention; and executive functions like route planning and risk taking. But they didn’t find a clear link between cannabis use and car crashes.