Know Your Facts: The Truth About Cannabis and Driving


In our continuous attempt to increase public understanding of medical cannabis’ applications and intricacies, we must address certain regular interactions and public assumptions that could lead to dangerous outcomes. Driving, obviously an activity that a tremendous number of people engage in or are affected by every day, is next on our list.

Treating with medical cannabis or using cannabis recreationally (in states where either or both forms are legal) requires careful consideration before, during, and after use; in some cases, neglecting certain precautions or preparations can result in the endangerment of one’s own life and the lives of others. Driving is one such example (just think back to the warning about driving or operating heavy machinery that you see on most prescription medications).

Stop, Look, and Listen

There appears to be a rather pervasive assumption that driving under the influence of cannabis is just or nearly as safe as driving sober. This thought process likely comes from general lack of understanding of cannabis’ effects paired with contrasts to drunk driving, which is often seen as being more dangerous.

Research of cannabis use and driving paints a rather alarming picture; according to studies published by PSB Research in association with news sources like BuzzFeed News and Civilized, nearly half of Americans believe that driving after using cannabis, whether medical or recreational, is “very safe or somewhat safe.” Further still, according to the Civilized study, “55 percent of American and 36 percent of Canadian cannabis consumers said they'd be comfortable with riding in a car with [a cannabis] impaired driver.”

This misconception is interesting as it is so prevalent, even among individuals that are using cannabis themselves. While many approved cannabis medications contain extremely little or no psychotropic THC at all, the fact remains that many recreational users still enjoy the mind-altering effects of the strains they choose. This means that half of those who are actively experiencing the impaired judgment, coordination, and reaction speeds common of cannabis use support the idea that their driving ability under the influence remains intact.

Break The Wheel

The aforementioned impairments is known conclusively to affect drivers that have consumed cannabis prior to taking the wheel. A 2014 study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center doctors showed that cannabis influence paired with motor vehicle operation can be extremely dangerous: “Several studies have noted an increased crash risk among drivers using cannabis. An active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], has been found to be associated with poorer driving performance, longer response times, and slower driving speeds in a dose-response fashion.”

Doctors Joanne E. Brady and Guohua Li also explained in the American Journal of Epidemiology that there is  a “growing body of evidence linking non-alcohol drugs, particularly cannabis, benzodiazepines, and stimulants, to deleterious driving performance, increased crash involvement, and crash culpability.”

Further research from the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore, MD specified further: “Evidence suggests recent smoking and/or blood THC concentrations 2-5 ng/mL are associated with substantial driving impairment, particularly in occasional smokers.” Authors Hartman and Huestis offered suggestions for additional research to further clarify the issue, as well: “Future cannabis-and-driving research should emphasize challenging tasks, such as divided attention, and include occasional and chronic daily cannabis smokers.”

Evidence provided by players in the insurance industry offers further corroboration of increased risk. For example, identified that “crashes are up by as much as six percent in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared with neighboring states that have not yet legalized marijuana for recreational use, according to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).”

From any angle, the facts point to a complete lack of safety in driving following cannabis consumption. As state cannabis programs grow and additional research is produced, the disconnect between perception and reality may dissolve; until that time, it is important to exercise caution and encourage cannabis users to abstain from driving until the effects wear off completely.

What Does It All Mean?

It can never be said enough that driving under the influence of any perception-altering substance, be it alcohol, prescription opioids, cannabis or otherwise, is dangerous, illegal, and irresponsible.

Using forms of hemp and cannabis like CBD involves less risk when these products don’t contain THC, however it’s important to prioritize caution and awareness, as with any medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter. When using cannabis-derived medication, always discuss your questions or concerns with your doctor and be sure to check warning labels before choosing to drive or engage in any other potentially dangerous activities.

If you are considering treatment with medical cannabis for physical or mental symptom relief, we encourage you to consult first with Doctor Jane or your local medical cannabis physician to ensure that you fully understand the full potential impact of these products. There are many factors involved in determining whether cannabis is the appropriate course of action and in developing a proper treatment plan for your individual needs and health situation. You can schedule a consultation for a time and location that is convenient for you using our website, or reach out to me directly at (561) 406-0685.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, MD, founder and president at Doctor Jane and our licensed medical cannabis physician. If you are considering cannabis treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation.