A Look Into The Complexities Of Cannabis And Highway Safety

When it comes to the regulation of cannabis safety laws, such as laws pertaining to road safety, most people advocate for a system like what is currently implemented for alcohol. And at first consideration, this sounds like a perfect solution. But during an interview with former police officer-turned-defense attorney Scott Leist, Leafly asked about some of the finer points and complexities of enforcing highway safety in relation to cannabis.

First, Leist illuminated Leafly on the fact that cannabis is processed by the body entirely differently from alcohol is. Even if a person has not ingested the plant or any THC-infused substances in weeks, tests can still reveal a positive result-which can then get a driver convicted of a DUI. The current tests that exist to track THC content in a person’s body do not account for the fact that a person could be driving stone-cold sober while the psychoactive component of cannabis lingers in their body.

Leist also mentioned that the 5ng/mL limit imposed on how much can show up in a person’s tests to have them convicted of a DUI is completely arbitrary. “There is simply no good science suggesting that 5 ng/mL is “impairing” or what amount would be “impairing,” he says quite clearly in criticism of this testing method.

It is also worth noting that there are numerous factors at hand that will impact how much THC will appear should a person be tested on the grounds of a suspected DUI or any other reason. Leist cites the following factors:

  • The method of ingestion (edibles, oils, smoking, etc)
  • Time passed since ingestion
  • Whether the person uses marijuana regularly, or infrequently
  • The concentration of THC in the plant/infused product


Additionally, there are some sources that suggest a moderate amount of cannabis could actually improve one’s driving, in terms of less aggression, slower speeds and less risk-taking maneuvers behind the wheel. There are no existing studies that can come to a shadow of that same suggestion.

Currently, there is not much training available for law enforcement officers to determine marijuana intoxication in drivers. There is no slew of field tests available like there is with alcohol, so officers have to base their decision on whether or not to investigate based on what they have witnessed, including any admissions of prior cannabis use, uncoordinated driving, the smell of marijuana or physical signs of impairment (which can include red eyes).

Click here for the full Leafly interview.


Photo by pmuoki


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