Research Shows Marijuana Use May Affect Driving Ability for Weeks at a Time

14 March 2013

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 March 14, 2013
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driver impairmentWith the passing of legal marijuana use in two states and medical marijuana permitted in others, state and federal governments are having difficulty establishing clear rules regarding the use of marijuana in relationship to driving.

Research shows that marijuana use may adversely affect a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. In fact, a new study in Clinical Chemistry indicates that marijuana use may be detected in a person’s bloodstream that is at a level that may affect driving ability for weeks after the last time the person smoked the drug.

The study was conducted by collecting blood from 30 individuals who admitted that they were daily marijuana smokers. The individuals lived in a secured research facility for up to 33 days. Even though the study participants did not consume any drugs during their time at the research center, their blood tests still showed the presence of the drug.

The findings of this study show the difficulty that may arise from trying to establish clear guidelines regarding marijuana laws. The active ingredient in marijuana may still be present in a driver’s blood in variable amounts that may not reduce in a predictable manner like blood alcohol content tests demonstrate.

Furthermore, although acute impairment may be a factor immediately after a person consumes marijuana, researchers have not been able to show whether people who chronically smoke marijuana are chronically impaired by their intake of the drug.

Alcohol remains the leading cause for driver impairment, followed by marijuana use. Drivers who are drunk have a ten times higher risk of causing a traffic fatality than a driver who is impaired by marijuana. However, studies continue to show that marijuana use can impair driving ability considerably.

Some proponents argue that a “per se” drug policy could help set a legal standard that is associated with impaired driving. Such a policy would be grounds for holding a driver responsible for impaired driving for having any detectable amount of marijuana in his or her system.

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