As cannabis becoming more and more accepted and popular as a medication around the world, legislating the use of it is still far from perfect.
One of the most controversial areas of legislation is driving under the influence of medical cannabis.
It is common practice for governments around the world to apply zero tolerance to medical cannabis patients. Once you start using cannabis, you must stop driving.
Patients and advocates find this overly cautious approach fundamentally wrong and even discriminatory as the zero-tolerance approach does not consider how Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids affect driving.
THC is fat soluble and therefore stays in the user’s system for a significant amount of time.
This could mean that a patient could literally get pulled over days after using cannabis and still test positive. Obviously, days after the last use there is absolutely no impairment, so it is easy to see how far off zero tolerance policymakers are.
Patients ability to drive under the influence of cannabis medication should be determined by impairment, somewhat similar to alcohol.
This argument is intensifying as data from already legalized states in the US proves that legal cannabis does not increase road accidents.
Zero tolerance driving under the influence of cannabis will most likely start to get out of fashion in the coming years. Authorities are getting smarter and use their data better and better to determine what is causing accidents in the real life.
A recently published French research study is a good example of just how easily authorities can prove that cannabis is not the real problem on the roads.
French Metropolitan Police analyzed data from over 4000 drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents during 2011.
Analysts found that drivers under the influence of alcohol are 17.8 times more likely to be responsible for a fatal traffic accident than sober drivers.
In a sharp contrast, drivers under the influence of cannabis were found to be 1.65 times more likely to cause a fatal road accident.
Alcohol is over 10 times more dangerous on the road and it gets even worse if you consider that half of the drivers that tested positive for cannabis, were also under the influence of alcohol.
Despite the devastating effects of alcohol on the driving ability, most countries around the world don’t apply zero tolerance to it.
There are some that do, my native Hungary, as well as Romania, Czechia, Armenia and a few other countries all apply zero tolerance to alcohol.
Having said that, even if you get smashed and faint out from alcohol poisoning, all you need is a good night sleep and about 8 hrs later you can be driving with no detectable alcohol in your blood.
Cannabis stays in your body for significantly longer and even though it does not affect your driving after about a couple of hours, it can be detected for up to a month after use.
Most of the countries do apply some tolerance for drivers to drink alcohol. Generally speaking between 0.02 and 0.08 % in your blood, although it used to be as high as 0.1 in the US.
Here are some examples of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) allowances:
0.02% Sweden, Estonia and Poland
0.03% Serbia and Uruguay
0.05% most popular limit, including France, Australia, Germany, Italy, Spain and many others
0.08% Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, USA
I also have to mention that, it is easier to test for alcohol levels in the blood than for THC. Current THC roadside testing is a saliva test, that is notorious for inaccuracy while more accurate and sophisticated cannabis breathalyzers are being developed.
As more research like this being conducted, hopefully, a fairer testing system for driving under the influence of cannabis is not too far away.
Until then, make sure you know your risk when you are using cannabis and driving and drive safely.