A surprisingly hot topic in the cannabis community is whether or not being under the influence impairs your ability to drive. There are people who vehemently defend that using cannabis makes them a better driver, the reasons ranging from less road rage to improved concentration. So does cannabis really make you a better driver? Short answer is no, in fact there is evidence that driving under the influence of cannabis decreases your motor skills, slows your reaction time and increases risk of collision.
Remember when your parents/grandparents told stories about driving around with a lit cigarette with an unbuckled toddler in the front seat? Or running down the back roads with an open case of beer? It’s the type of anecdote we chuckle at, about how reckless the older generations were. Initiatives born in the late 70’s steadily declined Canada’s drunk driving rates, after they peaked in 1981, according to Stats Canada. I’m certainly not claiming that people don’t still drink and drive but the instances are occurring at lower rates, largely due to changes in societal norms and social stigma.
Cannabis and driving doesn’t currently have that same kind of stigma and awareness that alcohol has in our society. I have an inclination that our children will tell similar stories, about how their parents would hotbox the car in their youth. I feel like the idea of using cannabis and driving will be as ridiculous of a notion to them, as driving around with an open container is to us now. To get there though we need to have the transparent conversations about cannabis and driving.
Know your Limits - The truth of the matter is cannabis is new to many Canadians, they have yet to learn their limits and how it affects them on a personal level. As adults, we know how many drinks we can have with dinner before driving home. Maybe you had a close call, or simply erred on the side of caution while determining your limits. Much like alcohol, cannabis impairment can be variable based on a person’s weight, how much they’ve had to eat, and how often they use the drug. In addition to personal tolerance, strains can vary in THC concentration, which affects the intensity and duration of its effects.
Obey the Law - I know this can be a buzzkill of a reason, Canadians were smoking cannabis before it was legal so the law might not be on the top of your list. New impaired driving legislation came with the legalization of cannabis in Canada, with it came more clearly defined rules around driving and cannabis use. As with any new law, they are subject to over-regulation in the beginning and unfortunately roadside saliva testing leaves much to be desired. In addition to lack of effective testing for being impaired, the law sets controversial blood concentration levels that aren’t supported by the medical community.
Accept that Cannabis Impairs Driving - Despite what people might tell you, there are numerous medical studies that found cannabis impairs your ability to drive. There is overwhelming evidence that cannabis slows your reaction time, reduces fine motor skills, impairs decision-making, and causes issues with speed and lane variance. Unlike alcohol, drivers impaired by cannabis tend to be more aware of their inefficiencies but they tend to over-correct their mistakes increasing the risk of collision. What the studies can’t agree on is how much cannabis it takes to be considered impaired, or how long it those effects stay in the body.
The key to cannabis and driving is very similar to the rules we abide by when consuming alcohol. It’s important to know your limits, plan ahead, and use alternative transportation or a designated driver.