By on January 18, 2013

 

Someone I know tried to cut down the boredom of daylong drives up and down I95 with roaches in his car – the smokeable kind. Not that the drives became any shorter, they just appeared longer. With the relaxed marijuana laws in Washington state and Colorado comes a fresh look at how to handle dopers behind the wheel. Dopes behind the wheel are easy to gauge, dopers not so much.

Says Edmunds.com Editor Carroll Lachnit (I guess that comes from “laugh not”):

“Marijuana and alcohol affect users very differently, so it doesn’t always make sense to simply lump a marijuana DUI with an alcohol DUI,” “Everyone knows that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, but there’s never been a national standard in place to identify someone who’s ‘legally stoned’ the way we can identify someone who’s ‘legally drunk.’”

The NHTSA, not gunning for another fight that might detract them from their war against cell phones and distracting gadgetry, says that marijuana can impair driving performance for up to three hours after use. Even marijuana experts concede that number may be too conservative. A good night’s sleep, preferably with company, might be better than what the NHTSA recommends.

For The Truth about In-Car Dope, head on over to Edmunds.

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53 Comments on “The Truth About Driving Stoned...”


  • avatar
    -Cole-

    Canadian pot culture is the worst.

    Weed’s real harm comes from how innocuous everyone says it is.

    If the weed tells you everything is fine and you believe it, congratulations, you’ve been influenced.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Weed’s real harm comes from how evil the Puritans say it is.

      When a kid sneaks his first joint after 10 or 15 years of propaganda and discovers that it’s no big deal, it stands to reason that everything the man told him about real drugs is BS too.

      Credibility matters.

      • 0 avatar
        BrianL

        Don’t be so quick to judge Dan. There have been reports from both sides of the table about the long term affects of weed, typically the negative reports coming from the “Puritans” and the positive reports from smoking advocates.

        Really, we don’t know the answers. In 20 years of smoking, you probably end up with the same lungs as tobacco smokers, maybe worse since most don’t use a filter on weed.

      • 0 avatar
        serothis

        @Brian

        Just a couple of issues. Making broad assumptions like tabacco and cannabis having the same health effects makes about as much sense as saying cannabis impairment is the same as alcohol impairment which is an obviously wrong assumption. But even if that was the case. Most users don’t smoke daily like tabacco users. Most heavy cannabis users don’t smoke a pack (20) or more a day like heavy tabacco smokers. So in order to see comparable levels of health effects cannabis would have to be more that 20 times worse then cigarettes.

        But then again there are huge studies, like this one http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html they just don’t get a lot of press coverage because it doesn’t sound scary.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        “…you probably end up with the same lungs as tobacco smokers, maybe worse since most don’t use a filter on weed.”

        There are other ways to “smoke” pot. Vaporizers? Anyways, medical studies suggest the lungs benefit from smoking pot and there’s certainly none of the 500 or so cancer causing chemicals that are in cigarettes. Of course, you take a couple of hits off a joint where as chain cigarette smokers inhale up to a yard of “filtered” cigarettes a day.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    This is absurd. Would anyone attempt to put a gram/positive number on inhalants like glue? Or attempt to quantify what nicotine does in relation to driving? How about caffeine? Where does this end? Turkey makes me drowsy, should there be a legal limit on how many ounces I can eat within a time frame when driving? They attempt to explain the inexplicable, which, in truth, is why do so many bad drivers do such stupid things? Until the political will is amassed to grade driving skills and test to a high standard, all this blather is window dressing. Pigs must be flying because I’m with the libertarians on this one. I think.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Drivers could be stopped and ticketed for actual dangerous driving. Pair dash cam video with the ticket. I get the impression that cities find alcohol DUI violations especially lucrative to pursue, but maybe it doesn’t really matter why the driver can’t seem to stay between the lines.

  • avatar
    phydo773

    I’ve never known weed to say “everything is fine…”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’d rather share the road with a bunch of stoned hashists than normal sober drivers with their head up their ass. It’s not that I encourage stoned driving, but all drivers would benefit from a bit of paranoia behind the wheel.

    Although it is possible to smoke too much to drive safely, driving isn’t what you’re in the mood for or wanting to go do at the time. More importantly, you are FULLY AWARE you got too high to drive!

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      I agree completely. I’ve never driven while blazed, but then I’ve very rarely smoked. With a bit of a high, the only couple of times I’ve had to go somewhere, I was hyperattentive and did precisely two over the speed limit the entire way. I’ve noticed this with my friends as well.

      If you can pass a sobriety test and hold a conversation, you’re okay. If you can’t, you’re not. Shouldn’t be hard.

  • avatar
    mklrivpwner

    Erratic or unsafe driving gets you pulled over. So you shouldn’t be quantifying the intoxication before you know if someone has even used the substance.
    It’s simple… No, really. Someone drives erratic and is subjectively deemed to be causing an unsafe situation. They get pulled over. You test for intoxicants (like alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, whatever). If the test is positive, congratulations, DUI.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      I drank a 32oz Mountain Dew and got pulled over for fumbling with my Pretty Poison and Nu Shooz CDs. The MD likely had a lot to do with my erratic driving, but if I’d gotten a DUI out of it, the law just became meaningless.

      • 0 avatar
        statikboy

        DenverMike, i think you’re right that getting a DUI in that situation wouldn’t be appropriate, but mklrivpwner is right that unsafe driving should be punished no matter the cause. if a contributing factor is deemed to be too much caffeine (or alcohol, marijuana, meth, cocaine, nicotine, whatever), maybe a ‘driving without due care and attention’ or ‘dangerous driving’ ticket would still fit, with an admonishment that if caught again driving badly under influence of some response-altering substance, a harsher punishment would be expected. possibly THEN a DUI

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Anytime you cause an accident, there should be some legal penalty, regardless of the distraction/inattention, incompetence, chemicals in your system or any combination thereof.

        It is dangerous though, anytime you start (legally) lumping meth and cocaine, with fairly innocuous stuff like caffeine, nicotine and marijuana (depending on dose and tolerance). What you end up saying to the public is you’re too incompetent and unfit to be writing drug laws, they’re not to be respected and ultimately they should all be ignored!

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      +1

      Anything else is pre-crime.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Marijuana makes you feel calm and relaxed, right? So it should improve ordinary driving situation. Of course, your reflexes may be too slow if there’s a sudden situation on the road that calls for fighter pilot-like reflexes (during dogfight, no less), and then you’re screwed. But for 99% of the kind of driving one does in the US, I think it should help, especially if the fella is one of them aggressive, road raging type.

  • avatar
    tikki50

    I’d like to add that if you put a bunch of stoned people on the road the overall gas mileage would sky rocket. Why, people would stop gas/brake driving and would overall drop speeds enough to actually improve gas mileage. Save our planet, smoke some Lando.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    For all of my adult life, I have witnessed people getting baked and skiing at the same time. Skiing bumps in fact. Until the mid 80′s I did so myself. No motor sensor-coordination, or judgement problems. (I witnessed this yesterday in fact, and doing is now even more legal here in Colorado) Driving a car is child’s play compared to skiing bumps.

    Lots of people equate or project the sins of alcohol onto cannabis. Flat wrong!

    There is talk of tests for cannabis intoxication for drivers. Good luck with that. Assuming the officer needs some sort of suspicion to go on a fishing expedition, exactly what vehicular behavior is going to tip him off? I guess all cars driven carefully, politely, non aggressively with no weaving means they are cannabis suspects.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Skiing and drinking went hand in hand when I was in college. I have a friend that golfs at a semi-pro level even though he has his second huge glass of vodka at 9 am. Alcohol doesn’t effect everyone the same anymore than THC does, but we’ve accepted that it does thanks to effective propaganda.

      I went to school with a guy that got an editorial published in the UVA student paper about how weed made him a better driver, while people that drink and drive were a menace. Then he made the local paper by flipping a Subaru BRAT with a passenger in one of the jump seats while stoned. I live in San Diego now, where pot use has been de facto legal for years. Car accidents involving weed are not uncommon, although it isn’t clear if they’re being tracked. I know an accident investigator here. I’ll ask him about the issue this weekend.

  • avatar

    Considering just about everyone you know who smokes marijuana regularly also drives stoned (I don’t know any potheads who don’t), and that we’re not hearing about an epidemic of drivers involved in accidents who turned out to have had THC in their system, my guess is that for regular users (but probably not for novices) smoking pot doesn’t significantly impair their driving.

    FWIW, in Michigan you don’t have to be measurably impaired to be convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana. The way the law is written (and upheld by the state supreme court) *any* metabolites of THC found in your system are considered to be evidence of impairment. Since THC is stored in fat cells (potheads who exercise a lot sometimes get high from burning fat) and since metabolites hang around a long time, if you smoke regularly they can probably ring you up anytime they want to.

    Ironically, you can be a weekend heroin chipper, or a regular psychedelic user, but easily test negative during the work week, because those drugs’ metabolites flush fairly quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      since we’re quoting anecdotal evidence i’m sure you’ll find that the numbers of people caught driving inpaired by alcohol or in accidents because of it are far outweighed by the numbers actually driving impaired. these people are not safe. they have merely been lucky. luck is fickle; you test your luck too many times, it turns on you.

      the real issue should not be whether or not you are risking a fine or jail time, but whether you are risking someone else’s life or livelyhood with your actions.

      weighing one’s desire to be drunk or stoned against the life of another person and deciding that being drunk or stoned is more important is simply criminal

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        What’s being argued is whether THC actually impairs your ability to drive. There is conflicting evidence around this, not nearly as cut-and-dry as driving while drunk.

      • 0 avatar
        serothis

        @Ronnie

        Actually the metabolite stored in fat is THC-COOH which is non-psychoactive. Meaning any high that a person gets from exercising is an endorphine high not a cannabinoid one

        @Statikboy

        You say that we are simply getting lucky and that’s probably true but then again that’s true of a lot of things we use everyday. What about drowsiness brought on by benadryl or any other antihistamin? what about good old fashioned all nighters? or prescription medication? Even being angry can lead you to be a more aggressive and risky driver leading to a higher probability of getting into an accident. There are 1001 things that can increase the likelihood of an accident (fatel or non-fatel). And we haven’t passed laws outlawing driving while under the influence antihistamines or sleeping less than 8 hours a night or while emotional. We judge reckless driving based on the events of that individual incident.

        simply testing for a metabolite even though a person may not have consumed for weeks (which is all we do) and saying you tested positive therefore you are stoned doesn’t actually make our streets safer. Even for alcohol, something that is very well documented, we don’t say that. We say that at a certainly level you are still competent to drive. Beyond that level driving would be a measurable risk to others.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Kluttz

        How about risking some punctuation or capital letters in your writing?

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        In fact, being imperfect fallible beings that we are, the simple fact we get behind the wheel in any state of mind that occurs, then “you are risking someone else’s life or livelyhood with your actions”.
        One does not need drugs to get into accidents.

  • avatar
    skloon

    I have to agree that it is not a good idea, my experience has been absolutely certain that the car behind me is the cops, then drive all over hells half acre trying to avoid them only to discover that it is a clapped out civic driven by someone like myself. The other issue is concentration, I have been paying alot of attention to traffic and laws, carfully driving home and parking in the garage only to blink and find myself on the freeway 15km from home.

  • avatar
    star_gazer

    Just finished a Milton Friedman video, so my comment will reflect “What would Milton do”?

    I think Friedman would make drug enforcement a states rights issue. Local states would impose laws which reflect the views of the locals. My state, Indiana, would probably eschew drug use and continue their drug laws. Colorado and Washington would have the right to enact and enforce laws as the locals see fit. Of course, the citizens of these states would have to bare the burden of drug rehab, supporting kids of neglectful parents, et.al.

    The beauty of local laws is this: If I don’t agree with state laws, I can move.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      So you would quit your job and leave your family and move just because the pot DUI law is not to your liking? What if you don’t like the pot law but you like the health insurance law in your state? Then what do you do?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You would weigh the pros and cons and choose what is most important to you. Is that really beyond your capabilities? There is no one solution for everyone. Why treat people as inmates?

      • 0 avatar
        star_gazer

        @icemilkcoffee:

        CjinSD stole my thunder.

        What is your opinion on Detroit? Many people in power made decisions that I feel caused the exodus of more than half of Detroit’s population. Were these good decisions? Many did not think so. I like it when people can vote with their feet and their wallets. However, it does kinda suck to be left behind in a dying city.

        I have already left my family in Wisconsin to pursue my career and to avoid the high tazes; part of these taxes support programs that I think could have been handled differently. Also, I think we’ll see this more as Indiana steals businesses from our highly taxed brothers to the west: Illinois, specifically from Chicago.

  • avatar
    rwb

    Happy to see minimal pearl-clutching in this thread.

    Problem with quantifying MJ impairment is how differently individuals respond to it. Some people can do anything they could do sober, sometimes better, and others can’t do much of anything. The upside is that the people who are incapacitated by THC generally are able to recognize this, and they avoid doing, well, anything.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Also, if you legalize MJ, you can regulate the labeling and know the exact THC content. It’s silly not to legalize it considering how many places you passed on the way to work selling alcohol and still managed to get there (somewhat) sober.

  • avatar

    Car & Driver did a “stoned off” driving test many, many years ago to compliment their previous “drunk off” test. The closed course test was controlled and even helped by the local police department. The results were interesting. The times and accuracy of the driving got better the higher they got. The only trouble is they kept losing their way back to the bus they had set up as their headquarters.

    I used to partake of the evil weed back in the 70′s, and all I can say is that when I was drinking and driving, I would make 100mph runs up the local tollway. When I was stoned, I was satisfied to sit back at 55mph (the limit at the time) and groove on some good music. I never got into an accident, but I will admit to missing my exit on occasion.

    • 0 avatar
      serothis

      that kind of reminds me of my favorite stoner joke: When coming to a stop sign a drunk driver while fly right past it and never see it. A stoned driver will stop and wait patiently for it to turn green. :D

  • avatar

    Just went thru this w/ 13 yr. old daughter. She was spouting off
    how pot was so much better than alcohol. My take, the pot grown
    now is so strong that I know that I could not drive on it, not in town and not on the freeway. A little buzzed on yesterday’s inferior strains
    would just slow one down a bit. Being completely fucked up on today’s
    stuff and flying down the interstate, uh, no thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It’s not just the pot; they’re making liquor too strong these days too. I used to drink a beer or two with a meal and it didn’t affect me noticeably. But now whenever I down a mickey of whiskey at the dinner table I’m a mess.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Don’t believe the Feds. The strong strains have always been around if you knew where to look, but today, they’re often considered the regular stuff.

      No, it’s today’s kids that are stronger.. They don’t believe the bullshit propaganda nonsense we were fed. Think of all our childhood friends and peers we lost from alcohol related accidents and poisoning. It makes me absolutely furious to think about it!

  • avatar
    grinchsmate

    Thanks for that video.

    I used to smoke a lot, most of my friends did too. I would avoid driving at if at all possible, my mate would go for a drive just to smoke. So all I can say is its a very complex problem.
    And it is a problem. Although nowhere near as dangerous as drunk driving one isn’t fully aware of the surroundings. For me this meant picking a lane and sticking to it, speed exactly at the limit, revs 2.5 to change and a good 5 seconds behind the next car. My mate would go into a kind of trance, no speaking, no laughing, no movement, just constant eye movements to check mirrors.. This might sound like good driving but if something went wrong the reaction just wouldnt be there.
    I don’t know how high driving should be enforced but I do know the West Australian police test for THC in saliva rather than the various metabaloids in urine. This supposedly means that you will only get done if you have been smoking recently rather than in the past week or so. It’s not perfect as there is no scale of intoxication as there is for alcohol but its better than some approaches. I just wish my work would do the same.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    If smoking a little hootch would calm down the crazy SUV/PU truck/BMW drivers I share the road with on the way to and from work, I would be in favor of the police pulling over agressive drivers and straping a gas mask on them. Then attaching the hose end of the gas mask to a pipefull of pot and making them smoke the whole thing before they proceed. Of course, the offender would have to pay the officer the for the treatment weed which would include a healthy tax to cover expenses.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    What a great video. Those guys nail it.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    It has been decades since, but as I recall, the effects from the first few times smoking was a total distortion of space and time. After that, a much different experience. I (and many of my generation) did smoke before and even while driving. I remember one of the car magazines… C&D or R&T – I think it may have been back in the 80′s – did a comparison on a coned-off course of drivers who drank and then same drivers next day, who had smoked immediately before driving the course. The smokers were much more coordinated drivers, with better reaction times. The problem with marijuana and driving is more the fact that the stoned drivers are much more prone to be distracted. It’s the distraction that results in inattentiveness that injures or kills.

  • avatar
    AJ

    In my younger days, the pot smokers I knew, at least when they were stoned or recently stoned, they were flat out dumb and without any ambition in life. It’s great to know that more of them will be on the roads with us as we don’t have enough already. It’s like they’re all coming out of the closet so to speak.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      At least educate yourself. Sativas give you energetic optimism and spark creativity. They’re great for writer’s block and the choice for daytime smoking.

      Indicas are great for relaxing with an overall sense of calm and serenity. These will cause the “couchlock” effect enabling the smoker to just sit back and enjoy the experience.

      Hmmmm… I wonder which strains your friends were into?

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      Things have changed. More often than not, those stuck in the middle of life look down their noses at “stoners” and “addicts” all the while reporting, none the wiser, to someone who has no qualms sparking a joint.

      Among the very successful, you may be surprised.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    All this talk of weed vs alcohol misses an important point. Many people who use the former also use the latter at the same time. One friend, a former big band musician, claimed they were the best combination to stay “functional”. Then again, to go wherever he went, he called a cab.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    When I’m high, the narrator (he sounds like a baseball sportscaster) in my head tells me to just relax and listen to some “music in 3D” instead of driving. For a figment of my stoned imagination he offers some very wise advice.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “Everyone knows that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous . . .”

    That would be news to me and most people I know if it has research to back it up. I know a lot of people who do a lot of driving while high. The ones with six-figure salaries to go along with their university degrees are the ones who do it most. It reduces aggression, which is good for the frustrations of city driving, and can stimulate the mind in mundane environments, which is good for otherwise tiresome highway driving at legal (or at least socially acceptable) speeds.


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