Researchers still don’t know exactly how marijuana affects drivers

If you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you’ve probably wondered what the laws are when it comes to cannabis and driving. All states have laws that make it illegal to drive while impaired by cannabis. In most states, the legal limit for one’s blood alcohol content while driving is 0.08%, which is known to be the threshold of significant impairment. However, no such threshold has been identified for cannabis, which makes it extremely difficult to determine whether or not a driver who has used marijuana within the past few hours is impaired.

Does marijuana impair drivers as much as alcohol?

Studies that have recently made marijuana news suggest that impairment caused by cannabis doesn’t tend to be as severe as impairment from alcohol, which is due to several reasons. One is that alcohol can be far more detrimental to one’s reflexes and reaction time than marijuana. However, the other reason is that people using marijuana are more aware of their impairment than individuals who are drinking, which can sometimes also make people using marijuana less likely to get behind the wheel.

People who drive while impaired by alcohol tend to be overconfident, which leads to drunk drivers making erratic and dangerous moves on the road. However, this generally isn’t the case with marijuana since cannabis tends to cause drivers to become more cautious, which compensates for their impairment up to a certain point.

How much does marijuana impair drivers?

There are a lot of controversies surrounding this because the degree of impairment is not fully known. One study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that drivers with THC in their system are 1.25 times more likely to have an accident than those who didn’t use marijuana. However, another study found that one’s risk of being involved in an accident doubles after using cannabis.

People who are driving under the influence of marijuana do not tend to drive faster than people with no THC in their system, which is a major difference between cannabis and alcohol. People who are impaired by alcohol while driving tend to exceed the speed limit and drive quite recklessly, which means that the nature of driving errors caused by marijuana is very different than errors caused by alcohol.

Another difference is that one’s tolerance to marijuana has a major impact on how much it causes impairments in driving. People who smoke cannabis often are likely to have a higher tolerance, which can reduce one’s impairment considerably.

The effects of marijuana are harder to measure than alcohol

Cannabis doesn’t affect everyone the same, which means that it can be difficult to determine a clear threshold of impairment. In addition, different strains can have different effects, which means that simply measuring one’s THC levels may not always give a full picture of how much cannabis is impairing one’s driving.

In addition, THC is not the only compound in marijuana that produces effects on the mind and body. There are hundreds of compounds in marijuana, which means that there are many substances in the plant that could affect one’s level of impairment.

Not only do some of these substances increase the effects of THC, but some of them alter or moderate the effects as well. For instance, CBD can counteract some of the impairing effects of THC. Small amounts of a cannabinoid called THCV tend to reduce the impairing effects of THC. However, recent marijuana news indicates that higher doses of it amplify the effects of THC and produce psychoactive effects.

Furthermore, THC can linger in the bloodstream after an individual’s high has largely worn off. During this period of time, a test for THC may indicate impairment when the driver is no longer impaired by marijuana, which could result in someone being erroneously convicted of driving under the influence.

While cannabis on its own tends to result in moderate but not severe impairment, combining alcohol and marijuana is much more impairing than either substance alone. In fact, some studies indicate that mixing cannabis and alcohol multiplies the impairing effects of each substance rather than simply adding them together, which means that it’s important to never mix cannabis and alcohol if you’ll be driving.

Roadside tests are notoriously inaccurate

Due to confirmation bias, police typically determine that a driver in question is impaired during the roadside sobriety tests, which is not always accurate. However, five states that have legalized marijuana don’t have any sort of objective measure to gauge whether or not an individual is impaired by it while driving. In fact, these states have ‘per se’ laws when it comes to driving being impaired by marijuana. This means that all that’s required to determine if an individual is driving while impaired by cannabis is that they have some marijuana in their system and a police officer feels that they failed roadside tests.

Fortunately, the latest marijuana news shows that states are beginning to move away from this system for determining if a driver is impaired. As a result, states with legalized marijuana are setting limits on one’s blood levels of THC, which is currently set at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in Colorado and Washington. However, people with this amount of THC in their bloodstream may not be anywhere near as impaired as people with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration.

In fact, studies have found that the average amount of weaving among drivers with a THC blood concentration of 13.1 nanograms per milliliter were about as impaired as people with a 0.08 BAC. However, it’s important to note that one’s blood levels of THC are often measured a while after the person is behind the wheel, which is due to the lack of a breathalyzer-like test for THC.

Will there eventually be a breathalyzer that determines one’s blood THC level?

It’s likely that similar technology will be created in the future, which will make it much easier to determine if a driver is impaired by cannabis. However, more research needs to be done to create an accurate test, which is likely to be a saliva test as opposed to a breathalyzer. This test is likely to prevent many people from being falsely convicted of driving while impaired by marijuana, which is currently a surprisingly common occurrence in states that have ‘per se’ impaired driving laws.

What else is likely to change in the future?

In addition to the development of better technologies for measuring one’s blood level of THC, it’s likely that scientists will develop a greater understanding of how compounds other than THC affect the mind and body. This is likely to give a much more accurate and nuanced picture of marijuana’s impairment of an individual’s driving ability.

Summary

States that have legalized marijuana have yet to come up with a clear standard for determining if drivers who have used it are impaired. However, that’s likely to change in the future as a substantial amount of research is being done to determine a threshold of impairment for cannabis. As a result, there’s likely to be encouraging marijuana news about new technologies to prevent people from being wrongfully accused of driving while impaired by cannabis. This is likely to be life-changing for thousands of Americans.

References

https://www.livescience.com/51450-driving-on-marijuana-alcohol-dangerous.html

https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-is-thcv-and-what-are-the-benefits-of-this-cannabinoid

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-does-marijuana-affect-driving-63533

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