High driving

BY VERONICA REINER

We’ve known the date for a long time. Marijuana will become legal in Canada on July 1, 2018, bringing a whole new set of rules, regulations and questions. What should be the set minimum age to smoke pot? How much should it cost? But among these, one issue seems more difficult to solve than the others: How should driving while high be monitored and dealt with?

Driving high is not nearly as dangerous as driving while drunk. In a study published June 23 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers found that stoned drivers were more likely to weave within their own lane than those who were sober. However, they were not likely to weave out of their own lane or speed. Drunk drivers are likely to do all three. However, there is no doubt that marijuana affects your ability to drive. Weed impairs all of the cognitive abilities needed for safe driving, such as motor co-ordination, tracking and divided attention. In a recent study of Canadians by the State Farm Insurance Company, 44 per cent of respondents said they did not believe marijuana affected their ability to drive. Forty-two per cent said it does, and 14 per cent weren’t sure. The first statistic is scary.

There is no way to measure marijuana with a breathalyzer, although it can be tested using blood, urine and hair tests. However, marijuana stays in the system too long for any of these tests to measure the exact intake time. Each method has a different time frame for testing: urine tests can detect use 2-5 days after exposure from infrequent users, and 1-15 days for heavy users. A 90-day detection period is needed for hair testing, and 12-24 hours for blood testing, with heavy use being detectable for up to a week. None of these, however, can detect if a driver is high at the time of the incident.

There are further questions that this raises. How long after smoking can you get behind the wheel and drive safely? Marijuana can affect people in various and unpredictable ways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. claims marijuana can hinder driving performance for up to three hours after use. But is that the same for everyone? Some people might feel confident driving after just two hours, some might not feel comfortable driving for the rest of the day. Some direction from the government on this is required.

In addition, with marijuana legalization just nine months away, it is important for the government to find an effective method of detecting stoned drivers, and to educate the public that driving while high is dangerous and against the law.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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