How Does Cannabis Impair Driving?


Recreational cannabis legalization has long been linked to a higher instance of fatal crashes, starting with Colorado and Washington’s almost-tandem legalization in 2012. Naturally, after hearing this information, you likely arrive at this conclusion: cannabis negatively influences the way we drive. Let’s explore this claim further. How does cannabis affect driving?

Does Cannabis Impair The Way We Drive? 

Cannabis and driving

All substances, including cannabis, can impair your driving if you take enough of it. 

Have you ever had a strong edible, then hit the sack for the best sleep of your life? Imagine if that happened while you were behind the wheel. You could seriously injure yourself, the people in your car, and other vehicles on the road when driving while feeling the effects of cannabis. 

Now, on the contrary, you might smoke the right strain and quantity in the morning and feel completely energized. Cannabis’ effects vary depending upon the strain, dosage, and consumption method you choose. It also depends on your individual tolerance levels and unique biology. 

Cannabis and Alcohol Can’t Be Compared

Cannabinoids like THC do not metabolize in our body the same way alcohol or even other drugs do. Alcohol detection tests can spot alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, while cannabis can be detected for up to 36 hours. Edibles, which take the longest to activate and taper off than any other method of consumption, can make you feel effects for up to 24 hours. So while you may not be currently impaired from THC, your blood test says you are because cannabinoids metabolize THC slower than other substances. 

Aside from blood detection tests, urine tests can detect THC for up to 30 days (sometimes longer) in regular consumers. In theory, if a regular consumer completely stopped using cannabis within the past 30 days, they could still test positive for THC. Despite not consuming any cannabis in 3-4 weeks. That’s why cannabis breathalyzers aren’t effective or used by law enforcement officers, unlike alcohol. 

Why does THC take so long to leave your body? THC (and other cannabinoids) are lipid-soluble. Lipid-soluble compounds attach to your body’s fat, increasing the amount of time it takes THC to clear from your system. 

Alcohol and cannabis’ differing chemical structure makes the same intoxication litmus test unfair between both substances. We also know that alcohol legalization doesn’t automatically equal drunk driving accidents. That blame is pinned on the driver and the driver alone. 

Should I Drive After Consuming Cannabis? 


Currently, it’s a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis. This can be challenging for medical cannabis patients who consume cannabis throughout the day to achieve a better quality of life. Depending on the state you live in, you could be prosecuted for testing positive for THC after a serious car accident.

There are no uniform limits in place regarding the amount of cannabinoids allowed to be present in our system, as the federal illegality of cannabis in the U.S. prevents you from having even a trace of it. Individual states like Colorado say five nanograms of THC or more can be prosecuted for driving under the influence (DUI). This five nanogram specificity was quickly challenged in court, and the law was changed to penalize only those acting visibly impaired from cannabis. 

According to the legal tech company, NOLO, drug or alcohol testing is not standard protocol after a car crash or traffic violations. You might have to undergo drug screening if you’re exhibiting strange behaviors. NOLO is quick to point out that special circumstances do exist, like employees who are on the clock and get into a car accident. Your employer might require a drug screening in that scenario. 

Talk With a Doctor About Consuming Cannabis

Medical marijuana patients should regularly consult with a cannabis-educated physician to develop the best treatment protocol for them. Identifying a proper dosage based on your experience, desired outcome, and individual biological metrics will ensure you’re consuming cannabis in a safe way. 

Heally’s network of holistic physicians are here to help you obtain your medical marijuana card. We also offer ongoing consulting services to maintain the best cannabis regimen for you, even as your needs change over time. 

Fill out our online patient form here to talk with a doctor in person or online.


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