The United Nations this week reclassified cannabis from the category of the most dangerous and addictive drugs, which includes heroin.
Meanwhile, a landmark study on cannabis and driving ability was published, showing that cannabidiol (CBD), a component of cannabis now widely used for medical purposes, does not affect driving.
“These findings indicate for the first time that CBD, when administered without THC, does not affect a subject’s ability to drive,” said lead author Dr. Thomas Arkell. “That’s great news for those using or considering a treatment with CBD-based products.”
Led by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney and conducted at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, the study results were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
There has been substantial growth in medical treatment with cannabis-related products in Australia and abroad. This includes an increasing use of CBD-containing products for conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, chronic pain, and addictions. Many products currently available also contain a blend of THC and CBD.
The research also measured the effects of driving with THC on the bloodstream, the intoxicating component of cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol, and found that moderate amounts produced mild driving impairment lasting up to four hours.
Participants inhaled vaporized cannabis containing various mixtures of THC and CBD, or a placebo cannabis, and then took a 60-mile (100 km) ride under controlled conditions on public roads, both 40 minutes and four hours later. Cannabis containing primarily CBD did not affect driving, while cannabis containing THC, or a THC / CBD mixture, caused mild impairment measured 40 minutes later, but not after four hours.
“With cannabis laws changing globally, jurisdictions are grappling with the problem of driving under the influence of cannabis. These results provide much-needed information (that) can help guide road safety policy, ”said Dr. Arkell. “These results should allow for evidence-based laws and regulations for people receiving medical cannabis.”
“The results should reassure people using CBD-only products that they are more likely to drive safely, while helping patients using THC-dominant products understand the duration of impairment,” he said Director of the Lambert Initiative, Professor Iain McGregor.
The one-hour test drive was conducted on a public road in a dual-control car with a driving instructor, using a well-established scientific test that measures the standard deviation of vehicle position (SDLP), including changes in lane, detours and overcorrection.
The amount of THC vaporized by the participants was enough to cause a strong sensation of intoxication.
While some previous studies have looked at the effects of cannabis on driving, most have focused on smoked cannabis that contains only THC (not CBD) and have not accurately quantified the duration of impairment, said the authors of the JAMA study.
“This is the first study to illustrate the lack of effects of CBD on driving and also provides a clear indication of the duration of the THC impairment.”
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