Worried about taking CBD and driving with products in your car? Here you can find out exactly what is and isn’t legal when it comes to CBD. A new study says that high doses of CBD don’t impair driving. Author: Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research
Can You Drive After Taking CBD?
CBD oil is a popular wellness supplement that many people use for its potential therapeutic benefits for pain, anxiety, stress, and many other common ailments. But CBD (cannabidiol) comes from cannabis plants, which has people worried about if it’s safe (and legal) to drive if they have taken a CBD supplement. In reality, there are many differences that separate marijuana derivatives from CBD extracts and make it legal to drive while using these products.
CBD is Not the Same as Marijuana
While there are a number of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, it remains illegal in every state to drive while under the influence of psychoactive drugs like marijuana. However, CBD does not fall into this category since it contains little to no THC, or the psychoactive component in cannabis that causes a high.
When it comes to “driving under the influence,” CBD is not considered to be an influence since it does not cause any mind-altering effects like marijuana does. This means that your perception and driving performance will remain the same, but you may feel a little more calm or perhaps less anxious if the CBD starts to take effect while you are driving.
Is it legal to drive with CBD?
When CBD is derived from hemp, it’s legal to sell and distribute across the majority of the United States. And if you have CBD products in your car, you likely won’t come into any trouble. Although there can be the occasional complication when it comes to traveling with CBD in your vehicle, because it’s still a cannabis extract and can cause some confusion among law enforcement and officials.
For products like CBD flower, it can look almost identical to marijuana buds even though it won’t make you high. Because of this similarity in appearance, it’s probably best to avoid driving with hemp flower in your backseat. In the event that someone spots it there, you’re likely to find yourself answering a slew of questions. Additionally, there is more of a legal grey area when it comes to interstate travel of CBD products, so you may want to steer clear of anything that’s cannabis-related if you plan to cross state lines.
The Benefits of CBD
Research and clinical trials surrounding the efficacy and therapeutic potential of CBD are limited, but this hasn’t stopped consumers from taking CBD products for a variety of different reasons, including:
These many possible benefits of CBD can also come in handy while driving, especially if you have anxiety or a short temper that can lead to road rage. However, there are some things that you should take into account before using these hemp-derived products.
What to Look Out For
It is generally safe to drive after taking CBD, but there are certain situations you’ll want to avoid. For instance, dosing is an important factor that comes into play if you plan to take a CBD supplement, and it should also be something that you consider before driving. If you are new to CBD, be aware that it may take some time to find your perfect CBD dosage, and taking too much may cause you to feel drowsy—which is not ideal if you intend to drive.
If you are a long-time CBD user, you should also exercise caution when trying any new product by waiting to see how your body responds before hopping in your car and driving somewhere. Play it safe when you are ingesting or inhaling a CBD-infused product (or traveling with one), and know what your state laws are in regards to CBD before driving around with a product in your vehicle.
High Doses Of CBD Don’t Affect Driving, New Study Shows
Researchers of the University of Sydney, Australia, found that high doses of CBD don’t impair driving.
Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology on May 30, the study says that oral CBD treatment, even if taken at a high dosage, doesn’t “appear to induce feelings of intoxication and is unlikely to impair cognitive function or driving performance.”
Researchers analyzed the simulated driving performance of 17 participants who undertook driving tasks after consuming a placebo and three different dosages of CBD in oil: 15mg, 300mg, and 1,500 mg.
Participants had to take two tests. In the first one, they had to try to maintain a safe distance between themselves and a lead vehicle. The second implied driving along highways and rural roads.
Participants completed the task between 45-75 minutes after taking their assigned treatment. They repeated the same driving simulations with a time interval between 3.5 and four hours. This was necessary to cover the range of plasma CBD concentrations at different times. They repeated the tests four times, under placebo and each of the three different dosages of CBD treatments.
The researchers considered participants’ driving ability and measured how they controlled the simulated car, how much they weaved or drifted, as well as their cognitive function, subjective experiences, and the CBD concentrations in their plasma.
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They concluded that no dose of CBD induced feelings of intoxication or appeared to impair either driving or cognitive performance.
“The results of this study suggest that acute, oral CBD treatment at doses up to 1500 mg does not induce feelings of intoxication and is unlikely to impair cognitive function or driving performance. However, further research is required to confirm no effect of CBD on safety-sensitive tasks in the hours immediately post-treatment and with chronic administration,” the study says.
On the University of Sydney’s website, lead author Dr. Danielle McCartney said that although CBD is generally considered non-intoxicating, its effects on safety-sensitive tasks are still being established. “Our study is the first to confirm that, when consumed on its own, CBD is driver-safe.”
However, she added that the study looked at CBD in isolation only and that drivers taking CBD with other medications should do so with care.
Researchers confirmed the finding of another study published in 2020, which indicated that CBD when taken through the use of vaporizers, did not impair driving, while THC and THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis produced a short-term impairment during experimental on-road driving.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main compounds of the cannabis plant, but unlike THC, several studies have shown that it doesn’t provide intoxicating effects.
The 2018 Farm Bill on hemp legalization made CBD and other minor cannabis compounds legal if they don’t contain a THC level above 0.3 percent.
Its popularity has ramped up in recent years. It has shown medical benefits in treating several conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects demonstrated in several studies over the years.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far approved only one CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, which treats seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients one year of age and older.
Although the FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer, its position is very restrictive towards those companies that market and sell CBD products as dietary supplements through false, deceptive, and misleading claims that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk.
Furthermore, FDA warns that taking CBD products and driving can be dangerous.
“CBD can cause sleepiness, sedation, and lethargy. Because of these side effects, consumers should use caution if planning on operating a motor vehicle after consuming any CBD products,” it reads on its website.
CBD doesn’t qualify as a controlled substance. Therefore, there is little probability of being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated or impaired (DWI) for CBD use in US states.
However, a positive THC reading due to CBD usage could result in DUI or DWI charges.
Such a risk is real, as a recent study showed that a majority of CBD sleep products are mislabeled and could contain significant amounts of THC.
Inaccurate concentrations on labels of CBD products may contain higher THC concentrations than it’s supposed to. Therefore, the amount of THC in the human body could be higher than expected.
Alcohol & Other Drugs
Cannabis is commonly used in Canada. According to a recent survey, 17.% of Canadians reported using cannabis at least once in the past three months. Around 6% said they used cannabis “daily or almost daily.”
Driving after using cannabis is relatively common in Canada. Fifteen percent of cannabis users with a driver’s license reported driving within two hours of use at least once in the last year. (It’s safest to wait at least six hours before driving.) Two recent studies in BC revealed that around 8 of drivers who sustained injuries in car crashed tested positive for cannabis, among other substances.
What’s the problem with driving after using cannabis?
Cannabis contains THC (the short name for the mind-altering chemical in cannabis). THC can impair our ability to drive. When THC is in our blood, it may affect our tracking ability, reaction time, sight, concentration and memory. THC can also compromise our ability to handle unexpected events, such as a child stepping out onto the street.
(Note: You may have heard about CBD, the short name for a therapeutic compound found in cannabis. CBD is not hours before driving after using cannabis.mind-altering and does not affect driving.)
The way THC affects us depends on many factors, including the strain of cannabis and our experience with the substance. Evidence suggests regular users of THC may be more tolerant of its impairment effects. But this doesn’t mean it’s OK to drive if you’re a regular cannabis user. Cannabis can impair many aspects of functioning that affect safe driving, even in regular users.
Evidence shows cannabis use increases our risk of being in a vehicle crash. What’s more, using cannabis in combination with alcohol puts us at significantly higher risk of harm. THC can magnify the effects of alcohol. In 2014, nearly one in five fatally injured drivers tested positive for THC, among other substances.
Why do people take the risk?
For some people, the benefits of cannabis seem to outweigh the risk, including risks related to driving. For example, there are people with medical issues who may be using cannabis (THC and CBD) throughout the day to function and participate in life as a “regular person.” Others may be using it to cope with the stress, routine, or boredom of their job or occupation.
“I’m a very anxious type of person. I used cannabis just to be able to relax while working. It kept me awake and, believe it or not, helped me focus better. I knew there were risks, like losing my Class 1 licence. But the benefits outweighed the risks 100%”—retired truck driver and heavy equipment operator
Other reasons people risk driving after using cannabis may involve their beliefs about drug use. For example, some people think cannabis is not very intoxicating and therefore not much of an obstacle to driving. Yet cannabis can be a depressant, which means it slows down activity in our central nervous system. This can equate to slower brain function, poor concentration and confusion.
Some cannabis users who drive may understand the impairment effects of cannabis and avoid getting behind the wheel within the first hour after using it. However, other users—younger male drivers in particular—may be at increased risk of what most would consider to be “reckless driving.” It is always safest to wait six hours before driving after using cannabis.
What happens if you’re caught using cannabis and driving?
The police use a range of tools to come to a conclusion about a person’s ability to drive. The smell of the drug on the driver or in the vehicle, red eyes and dilated pupils, and lapses of attention and concentration may suggest impairment. These clues give the police permission to ask drivers to perform three road-side tests: horizontal gaze nystagmus (involuntary jerking of the eyes when moved to the side), a one-leg stand, and a walk and turn. Drivers may also be asked to provide a sample of oral fluid. Some officers receive special training on detecting cannabis impairment and may issue a roadside suspension based on their judgement alone.
Yet, cannabis impairment testing is inherently tricky. THC can still register in a person’s body a long time after they’ve used the drug. This means a driver can test positive for THC even when well below intoxication or impairment level. Furthermore, it is not clear what blood THC levels actually indicate impairment and this seems to vary depending on the mode of ingestion.
If a driver is deemed impaired, they may be subject to fines, license suspensions, and other penalties, including increased insurance costs. See RCMP site for more details.
There are personal and social costs too. Losing your license can affect your self-esteem and confidence, your reputation among family and friends, and your job (if your job involves driving or you need to drive to get to work). And an impaired driving charge can stay on your driving record for a long time.
Things to consider
Think of your well-being and that of others. What message are you sending to others if you are willing to take risks such as driving when impaired or riding with someone who may be impaired?
Check your beliefs. How do they match up with those of other people you know? What are they based on? Being honest about your own experience and giving real consideration to other opinions can help you make good decisions. Doing a little research, from credible sources, may also help you become better informed about the properties and effects of cannabis.
Make changes, if you want to. It can be refreshing to reflect on our behaviour, including drug use, and think about small things we might want to do to increase our health and well-being. For example, we could try taking a walk after work before or instead of unwinding with cannabis or other substances.
Safer cannabis use
Some people will choose to use cannabis, regardless of rules or regulations. For those considering using cannabis, here are some things to think about and ways to reduce harm.
Before you use cannabis, ask yourself.
Do I really want to use it? Sometimes cannabis helps. Sometimes it makes things worse.
Can I trust my source? Legal cannabis sources are tested for quality while street cannabis is not.
How much THC is in it? THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the most well-known cannabinoid that causes impairment. Too much THC can also cause other unwanted effects (e.g., psychosis, paranoia).
How much CBD is in it? Cannabidiol or CBD is another cannabinoid. Unlike THC, CBD does not cause impairment. There is some evidence that CBD may block or lower some of the effects of THC and may contribute to the health benefits associated with cannabis use.
It’s safer to.
Avoid using too much too often, especially if you’re young. Human brains are not fully developed until early adulthood. Regular use (daily or almost daily) over time can lead to dependence. You may start needing it just to feel normal.
Wait at least six hours before driving or operating machinery.
Avoid smoking. Vaping or edibles are better options because they are not as harmful to your lungs. If you do smoke, don’t hold in the smoke. 95% of the THC is absorbed immediately.
Go slowly when eating or drinking cannabis. You can get higher than expected. Try a little and wait an hour before using more. Same advice when trying a new type of cannabis—go slowly.
Avoid mixing substances. Adding tobacco to a joint means adding another drug along with cancer-causing toxins. Drinking alcohol while using cannabis intensifies the effects, including impairment, and makes them last longer than expected.
Skip cannabis if you (or a member of your family) have a history of psychosis or a substance use disorder. Cannabis use increases risk that symptoms of these conditions will reappear or get worse. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s safest to avoid using cannabis.