How long to wait before driving after cannabis use

Published Oct 30, 2019 11:00 a.m. ET
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Before marijuana legalization was official, many people worried about irresponsible consumers driving while impaired. Luckily, the research shows that the introduction of marijuana plant products does not impact the safety of our roads, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consume with caution.

The trouble is that many less experienced users have no idea what to expect from these kinds of products, so they end up overconsuming and then somewhere they shouldn’t be, like behind the wheel when the effects start to kick in. Inexperience combined with a lower tolerance and/or highly concentrated option like edibles can result in a long-lasting and incredibly uncomfortable level of intoxication for the user.

These feelings can take different lengths of time to wear off, and it all comes down to how you choose to use marijuana plant products. While the intense, euphoric sensations can certainly impair someone’s ability to drive, they are not comparable to alcohol. So, you don’t always have to wait until the next day to run those essential errands, but it is important to keep an eye on the clock.

Edibles

Edibles are one of the strongest and most sensationalized products made with the marijuana plant, and despite their often-negligible level of the psychoactive element THC, somehow the effects are much stronger than any other method of ingestion.

When edibles are eaten, the cannabinoids (THC) are delivered to your bloodstream once they are absorbed through the stomach, so at first, it might seem like nothing is happening. However, within that 2-hour window, the effects may come on suddenly and last for up to 12 full hours after the initial ingestion. Hence the reason why you should always avoid driving for 12 hours after enjoying edibles.

Smoking weed

Smoking weed results in a much more immediate effect because the cannabinoids are carried through tiny vessels that line the lungs, within seconds of inhalation. This delivery method is fast-acting but also wears off much faster than edibles. After smoking a bowl, blunt or joint, you should wait at least 3 full hours before driving, and some experts recommend as many as 6 hours, to be sure that it left our system before hitting the roads. The same holds true for all inhalable cannabis products that are absorbed and processed through the lungs, including vaping.

Topicals

The euphoria that is caused by smoking or edibles is much different than the relief that cannabis lotion has to offer because humans are naturally equipped with a skin barrier that keeps foreign matter out of the body. Unfortunately, it also effectively keeps out cannabinoids, which is why you might notice really potent creams and balms that range much higher than any other typical marijuana product. Only a small fraction of them make it through, which may result in the user feeling more relaxed, but it should not impair a person’s ability to drive.

No matter what method or way you end up using cannabis, it’s a good idea to follow a few important rules to stay safe, and maintain an enjoyable experience, and to achieve the highest chance of success with medical marijuana treatment. Driving while under the influence of cannabis is a punishable offense just like alcohol that can result in fines, vehicle repossession, license suspension, and even jail time.

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