What the “Experts” Fail to Understand about Cannabis and Driving
NBC News recently published an article, “Many drivers who test positive for marijuana have a child in the car, survey finds”. This obviously is a very alarmist headline that makes you immediately think that some Cheech-and-Chong-looking-dude is sitting there with a baby while smoking a bong.
However, there is something that needs to be stated here to put everything into perspective. This relates to testing for THC and understanding impairment. The reason I write this is because in the article the conclusion essentially was, “people don’t understand that cannabis can impair them”.
However, what “experts” fail to understand is that the prevalence of THC in your saliva or blood, does not indicate “impairment”. Allow me to put this into perspective.
The “Expert” approach
Essentially, a group of people got together to collect data in Washington. The way they did this was to offer cash for a sample group of people willing to give up their saliva and blood at a particular point. I’m merely assuming here that they did this at various points and collected samples from thousands of people. They didn’t provide too much on their methodology.
What they found was that 14.1% of the drivers with children on board tested positive for marijuana.
“One of the things I would like consumers to know is that cannabinoid products can be impairing,” said study co-author Angela Eichelberger, a senior research scientist with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “And different products and methods of ingestion might have different effects.” – Source
Yet it’s bad science to assume that the drivers were ‘impaired’. In fact, the study only speculated on this point. The infamous “may be impaired” was riddled throughout the article. What this means is that they disguise an assumption around factual data.
I’m not disputing that 14.1% of the drivers with children on board had THC in their blood. I’m certain that it’s accurate according to their testing methods. What I am disputing is the “impairment” claim.
The fact that THC is in your blood or saliva, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have “recently consumed” marijuana. You may have smoked a joint the previous night. Testing both for saliva or blood will produce a positive result for THC. However, are you high?
Of course not.
This makes me question their methodology. At what times did they do these tests? Was it perhaps when parents were taking their kids to school or picking them up? Shouldn’t this factor also be considered with “prevalence of children” in the car? It would certainly sway the data pool.
Additionally, if only 14.1% of the tested drivers had kids, it would mean that 85.9% of them didn’t. That should be a good indication that folks who smoke pot with kids are generally responsible.
The point I’m trying to make is that testing positive for weed doesn’t mean that you are high. It only means that you consume cannabis. It provides no indication about whether or not you’re a responsible adult, nor does it mean that you are putting your kids in danger.
Can Cannabis impair your driving?
Of course it can. You’d be a blundering idiot to believe that it doesn’t. Compared to the “sober state”, you have a reduction in reaction time, and you’re operating under an “altered state”. So yes, it does impair your driving compared to sober-driving.
Yet, the level of impairment for the majority of the cases are mild. Of course, tripping balls on 5 potent brownies should warrant taking an Uber, however if you smoked a few tokes from a joint 2 hours before getting behind the wheel, we are talking minimal impairment at best. In fact, most people would be comparable to sober driving at that point.
Yet, the research fails to point this out. They don’t take into consideration that THC is a lipid based compound that can stay present in your body for up to 90 days. What if some of those drivers that tested positive for pot consumed an edible a month ago? Are they high?
Why talk out against these kinds of studies?
It’s important to raise awareness on these issues. For those of us who have partaken in the cannabis journey for many years, we know how to spot bullshit. However, for those who don’t know, they take these kinds of studies as fact. They accept the “may be impaired” to be a factual claim because the speculation is hidden in the factual data.
I’m all for properly studying the level of impairment. Hell, if we can eventually get to the point where we can “choose the level of impairment”, I’d be very happy. In fact, that’s one of the “golden gooses” of the cannabis industry, “designer highs”.
So yes, let’s research, let’s study and figure this out…but let’s not make bullshit claims about half-assed research that ignored a plethora of factors to make a claim about cannabis for the sake of catering to a narrative.