Healthy young recreational cannabis uses were tested on driving ability while high. Results show noticeable crash risk even hours after consuming (RI-MUHC)

Driving while high: negative cannabis effects linger for hours.

Recreational use of cannabis is set to become legal in Canada as of tomorrow, Wednesday Oct. 17.

Even as government “pot shops” are preparing what they believe may be a rush on consumption, many concerns remain among a variety of experts and citizens groups about the unknown societal effects of legalisation.  Among them are concerns about consuming cannabis and compromised driving ability

A new study by McGill University in Montreal appears to reinforce such concerns.

Although polls on the subject suggest that many young Canadians think they are better drivers on cannabis than when they are sober, the study on driving ability when stoned, gives rather different results.

 “The findings provide new evidence on the extent to which driving-related performance is compromised following a typical dose of inhaled cannabis, even at five hours after use.”  Co-augthor Isabelle Gélinas,  McGill School of Physical and Occupational Therapy.

While many cannabis users seem to think they are as good or better drivers when high, actual testing shows their reaction times and performance is diminished. (iStock-via Radio-Canada)

The study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed diminished driving capability as much as five hours after consumption.

The research was conducted for the Canadian Automobile Association by a multi-disciplinary team at the Centre for Innovative Medicine (CIM) of the Research Institute- McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC)

The study tested driving ability and reaction times in 18-24 year old healthy recreational cannabis users in four stages without cannabis, and then at 1-3-5 hour intervals after inhaling a standard 100mg dose.  Researchers say a typical joint could be between 300-500 of dried cannabis.

The testing on driving simulators by the 45 subjects showed that  under simple tasks like braking or maintaining steady spped were relatively unaffected but when the situation became more realistic, performance diminished.  This included addition of typical driving distractions such as child crossing the street, or cars braking in front, or parking between two cars in a parking lot, or passing an intersection where there are pedestrians, cyclists, and other traffic.

Quoted by the Canadian Press, Marco Harrison, director of the CAA-Quebec Foundation said  “There were a lot of drivers … who took part in the test and did not manage to do those manoeuvres”.

The testing involved a number of typical driving scenarios for 45 young healthy recreational cannabis users, 21 of whom were women. (RI-MUHC)

The study indicated that risk of an accident “was affected at all time points after cannabis use” with a noticeable increase in the risk of a crash.

Interestingly, many participants in the test almost  indicated that they didn’t feel as safe driving while high.

A new public awareness campaign will be launched this week to inform Canadians of the risks of driving under the effects of cannabis.

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