There’s a world of misunderstanding about what it means to drive under the influence. While most people can agree that drinking and driving is dangerous, what about driving while high? With many states moving to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, this is a question that’s being asked more and more frequently.
If you’re pulled over for drinking and driving, an officer will use a breathalyzer to test whether you’re under the influence. This makes it easy to set legal limits for use while driving. The same tool doesn’t exist for marijuana, and this creates a lot of misunderstandings. Without a field sobriety test, how high is too high to drive? Let’s take a closer look.
How Your Body and Mind Respond to Marijuana
To understand the reality of driving while high, we need to take a closer look at how your body responds to marijuana in the first place. Its true marijuana has many well-proven medical benefits. Yet, this doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive while under the influence. Because of the federal ban on marijuana, it’s hard to find clear research about its effects on humans long-term.
Technically speaking, marijuana comes from the flowers of the cannabis plant. This flower has hundreds of chemicals, some of which produce mind-altering effects or that classic “high” feeling. The main psychoactive agent in marijuana is THC, also known as delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Whenever you smoke marijuana, the THC goes from your lungs to your bloodstream to its final destination—your brain.
Some of the effects of cannabis use include a relaxed sense of well-being, heightened senses, hallucinations, or anxiety. This will depend on your specific dosage as well as your body’s unique tolerance level. Ultimately, it’s clear that using marijuana will have an impact on your mental state which might affect your ability to drive.
Is It Safe (Or Legal) to Smoke and Drive?
Now, onto the big question. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), over 1.2 Americans were arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (narcotics). This is a starling number, and it’s enough to second guess the decision to drink and drive. However, does this mean it’s equally unsafe to smoke weed and drive?
For the most part, the answer is no. The Marshall Project reports that driving high is similar to driving with a .01 to .05 blood alcohol content. This is a level that’s legal in every state. Still, many states continue to prohibit driving while high, though this is not easy to prove whether a driver is under the influence.
Ultimately, it’s hard to conclude whether or not it’s safe to drive while stoned. If you are pulled over while under the influence of weed, in many states, it is up to the discretion of the police officer whether you were partaking in recreational marijuana.
What we do know is that weed affects people differently. In addition, the way you consume your weed will have an impact on its effects. Eating an edible, for example, will likely result in a stronger, more prolonged effect on the body. At the end of the day, you’ll need to consider the way cannabis affects you individually, and whether it’s worth the risk of legal action.
Either way, recreational weed is still illegal in the majority of states. Until a final verdict is made on the status of smoking and driving in those states where it is legal, you’ll need to use your best judgment to make smart decisions behind the wheel.