Q&A - Drug Use a Concern if Cannabis is Legalized

marihuanaPrevalence of Alcohol and Drug Use in Injured British Columbia Drivers

This study was conducted in seven major trauma centers in British Columbia between 2010 and 2012.

The conclusion:

Alcohol, cannabis and a broad range of other impairing drugs are commonly detected in injured drivers. Alcohol is well known to cause crashes, but further research is needed to determine the impact of other drug use, including drug – alcohol and drug – drug combinations, on crash risk. In particular, more work is needed to understand the role of medications in causing crashes to guide driver education programmes and improve public safety.

Comments

Drug use

It doesn't surprise me that alcohol and cannibis are detected in lots of injured drivers. It is very common to see people smoking dope in the morning rush and drinking beer in the afternoon rush. One concern I have with the possibility of Marijuana being legalized is what happens when dope smokers smoke in public places (eg. Queen Elizabeth Theatre where smoking is not allowed anyway) without any concern for the person sitting next to them that may be employed in a profession that has random drug testing. How does the non dope smoker deal with this issue? I would be pretty upset if I lost my job and reputation as a professional because of this.

Just like the old days

To me, marihuana use while driving will be like alcohol use was in the 50s or 60s. To my knowledge, it was illegal back then too but it wasn't a "big deal". It will take 10-20 years for the society to get to that stage with drugs but I think we will get there

Impairment

Agree that more research is needed to make sure that we can better identify impairment. Unlike with alcohol, cannabis compounds can linger for days or weeks after use, so their presence alone is not necessarily indicative of impairment. Given that impairment that can result from alcohol, cannabis, illegal drugs, prescription medication, and emotional upset, it seems like we need impairment testing that is independent of chemical testing. The presence of certain substances might be a reason to test the driver for imairment but not in itself the criterion for impairment (except perhaps for alcohol). 

Alcohol vs Marijuana comparison

Legislators are up against a much bigger challenge with pot, than alcohol, when it comes to determining impairment levels.

Alcohol is far easier to measure, both in terms of percentage level in the liquid being consumed, and the amount existent in the bloodstream of the consumer. It's also far easier for the consumer to determine how long it will take before they're no longer affected by it, given the relatively linear rate at which the body eliminates it, mostly through the liver.

Marijuana is a very different drug, and it's far more difficult to determine the level of impairment after consumption; plus which, it's presence is detectable in the body far beyond the time when the individual is no longer affected by it.

This is a thorny issue, any way you look at it.

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