More and more countries around the world are legalizing medical cannabis. As a result, the number of patients who are being treated with medical cannabis is also rising. One issue, that in course of this, is increasingly discussed, is whether patients should be allowed to drive on public roads after taking medical cannabis.
In Germany for example, where cannabis was legalized for medical purposes since the spring of 2017, cannabis patients may only drive, as long as their ability to drive is not impaired by the medication. However, the problem is that, there is no specific cannabis limit for driving. Therefore, patients that are receiving treatment with medical cannabis have to decide themselves whether they are able to drive or not. If these patients do not evaluate themselves properly and they are involved in an accident it can get complicated because if they are taking medicines, which are affecting their ability to drive, they may be liable to prosecution. The purpose of this article is to discuss when cannabis patients should decide to leave their car at home and in which cases they should be allowed to drive while medicated.
One argument that is often highlighted by “supporters” of driving under the effects of medicinal cannabis, it’s that medical cannabis is enabling some patients to drive vehicles again. For example, severe headaches can affect patients’ ability to concentrate, which in turn can negatively affect their ability to drive. By taking medical cannabis, the headaches could be alleviated and thus the driving ability of the patients can be improved again.
Furthermore, observations from Canada, where cannabis for medical purposes has been legal since 2001, confirm that cannabis patients are generally very responsible. Thus, since the introduction of the law, there is no increase in the statistics of car accidents.
In addition, patients that consume medical cannabis often are only using CBD to treat their condition. CBD is barely psychoactive and there are even studies which are saying that CBD can increase the ability to concentrate. Therefore, patients using only CBD should not constitute a major hazard to road traffic.
The situation is different with THC, which has a psychoactive effect. Although the body can get used to THC after a while, if it is administrated to the patient continuously and in the same amount, the patients, for which THC is still unfamiliar, may experience intoxication if they suddenly take THC. This can especially occur at the beginning of a treatment or during a dosage change, since the amount of THC for patients in these situations is usually unfamiliar. The ability to drive for patients in this status is severely impaired and they should refrain from driving a car. For the same reason, it can also be critical to use cannabis flowers in pure form for treatment, as the dose may vary due to the unequal distribution of levels.
As already mentioned at the beginning of the article, the difficult measurability regarding the impairment of THC in cannabis patients constitutes another problem. TÜV SÜD from Germany: “The question of a traffic-safety-relevant impairment by medical THC is difficult to answer, due to the individual response to the substance.” Even from the THC content in the blood, no conclusions can be drawn on the actual influence of the patient. Because the detected THC in the blood concentration corresponds only to a small extent of the real influence and it cannot be said how much THC was actually consumed by the driver.
All in all, cannabis can affect every patient differently. Patients that are receiving treatment with medical cannabis should therefore only drive if they do not feel impaired or intoxicated. In addition, driving should be renounced if the doctor advises it. Affected persons should always act with caution and should not use their car in case of doubt. Otherwise, the patient not only endangers his own life, but also that of the other road users.