New Study Finds That Legal States Have Lower Rates of Cannabis-Impaired Driving
by Chane Leigh
One of the major concerns surrounding cannabis legalization is the impact that cannabis can have on one’s driving abilities. This is also why medical cannabis patients are not permitted to drive after having consumed cannabis. Fortunately, recent research Lambert Initiative has proven that the cannabidiol (CBD) active component of cannabis does not impact one’s ability to drive as well as proving that the intoxication of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) only lasts a few hours.
Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics is a part of the University of Sydney. The University of Sydney has stated that this “landmark study on how cannabis affects driving ability has shown that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis component now widely use for medical purposes, does not impair driving, while moderate amounts of the main intoxicating component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produce mild driving impairment lasting up to four hours”.
The research team was led by Dr. Thomas Arkell from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney but the research was conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The Maastricht University conducted research by the Lambert Initiative was published in the “prestigious” Journal of the American Medical Association. The significance behind the results of this study was best stated by Dr. Arkell who stated that,
“These findings indicate for the first time that CBD when given without THC, does not affect a subject’s ability to drive. That’s great news for those using or considering treatment using CBD-based products”.
CBD-isolate products are becoming increasingly popular for treating conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain as well as inflammation-based conditions. For those using CBD products, it has now been proven that even after consumption of CBD, they will be able to drive without the fear of their driving becoming impaired. CBD is really a medical marvel, but it is a medical marvel which works best when taken in combination with the other active compounds in cannabis including terpenes (such as linalool and myrcene) and other cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) and THC. CBD can improve symptoms as an isolated cannabis compound, however, the cannabis consumer will medically benefit the most from what is known as the entourage effect- which is when all the active compounds in cannabis are consumed together which then causes synergy and boosted effects.
Dr. Arkell and his team involved 26 healthy patients who were required to inhale vaporized cannabis containing different mixtures of THC and CBD. After inhaling the cannabis, the participants then had to go for a 100km drive under controlled conditions at 40 minutes after as well as 4 hours after consumption. Their performance was then assessed by a driving instructor present in the car on the road in order to simulate real-world conditions. The testing was conducted at the Maastricht University using a scientific test that measures the standard deviation of vehicle position (SDLP). This test measured SDLP to the likes of lane weaving, swerving, and overcorrecting. The same test has proven that alcohol and drugs such as valium increase the SDLP.
The mixtures of THC and CBD included cannabis containing mainly THC, mainly CBD, balanced THC, and CBD as well as placebo cannabis with no active compounds. Professor Iain McGregor, the academic director of the Lambert Initiative stated that “With rapidly changing attitudes towards medical and non-medical use of cannabis, driving under the influence of cannabis is emerging as an important and somewhat controversial public health issue” and that “While some previous studies have looked at the effects of cannabis on driving, most have focused on smoked cannabis containing only THC (not CBD) and have not precisely quantified the duration of impairment”.
This research was the first study to illustrate that CBD does not impact the consumer’s ability to drive while providing “an indication of the duration of THC impairment”. The study concluded with its findings stating that cannabis containing mainly CBD did not impair driving while cannabis containing higher quantities of cannabis may impair driving but that the window for that risk will only remain within 4 hours after consumption.
The basis of these results lies in the fact that while both CBD and THC are psychoactive (meaning they affect the brain), only THC is intoxicating. This research is important for providing clarity on cannabis for driving, especially since other authoritative sites, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, make strong statements such as “marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination and reaction time” and that “marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes”. While a study published in Trauma Monthly found that the most common causes of car accidents include alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, and cocaine.
So, now that we know CBD does not impair driving and that THC may increase the risk of impairment within 4 hours of consumption, it would be best to stick to CBD isolate if you are expecting to drive soon. Another word of caution would include avoiding mixing cannabis consumption with alcohol as that combination has also been found to significantly increase risks of impaired driving and car collisions.
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