Further proof that marijuana is safer to consume when driving than alcohol

Published Feb 28, 2019 01:30 p.m. ET

Marijuana legalization has been a godsend for millions of people across the globe as more regions introduce legislation that offers access to citizens. Canada is one of the most recent parties to join the list of countries that have legalized marijuana use for both medicinal and recreational purposes which has kept many on the edge of their seats citing concerns of higher consumption rates leading to an increase in impaired individuals that are smoking weed before hitting the roads.

Though there is no denying that driving while under the influence is best to avoid, there is a difference between marijuana use and the effects it has on the safety of our roads when compared to alcohol. With new studies being conducted and released every single day there is now a fair amount of data that points to alcohol being a substantially more dangerous substance than cannabis, especially behind the wheel.

Driving while high vs driving after drinking

When considering all the potential consequences when driving under the influence, you must take into account any of the possible contributing factors including all of the dangers of each substance.

Overdose

Most people who consume alcohol will never experience a life-threatening overdose situation. However, when they do it can result in death which can happen anywhere including when driving. There is not a single fatal incident on record to date caused by marijuana use. To consume enough THC for it to be considered a dangerous or lethal dose, you would need to smoke 1100 joints at once, where alcohol can be hazardous after only a few hours of drinking.

CDC reported Deaths

88 000 individuals die each year from consuming alcohol while marijuana users have a total of zero.

Violence

When comparing the two substances to see which one causes more volatile effect alcohol is always the most harmful. One study that focused on spousal violence found that couples that were smoking weed had a significantly lower risk of abuse during the first ten years of marriage. Another found that men who used cannabis were much less likely to partake in any kind of violent behavior.

Driving while high

Often the statistics involving the number of people who are found to be driving while high is presented in a way that makes them look concerning. Cannabis is the second most commonly detected drug in drivers systems in Canada, and so far studies have shown the average increased chance of being in a vehicle collision goes up by 85%. That number sounds incredibly high on its own, but if you compare those results to a similar study done on alcohol, you will find that drinking and driving increased the odds of a driver being in a crash by more than 2200%. Another study found that those who are driving while high tend to drive slower, leave more space between themselves and surrounding vehicles, and take fewer chances with risky behaviors or maneuvers than entirely sober drivers. Meanwhile, people found to be under the influence of alcohol have higher incidents or road rage, are prone to risky and dangerous behaviors and are also five times more likely to run a red light or stop sign.

Memory

If you have ever heard the term black out drunk than you likely know someone or have yourself experienced a loss of consciousness after a night of drinking. Over 50% of regular drinkers admit to having at least one incident where they can’t remember what they did the night before, most often forgetting how they even got home. Since so many ends up behind the wheel to get themselves there, this is a significant contributor to overall road safety. As many as 25% of people who end up in a collision while drinking do not remember the events of the night prior once they sober up. Marijuana use does not have this same intense sort of effect. Though cannabis can impair a user’s memory, particularly short-term memories, it will not produce a black out type effect. The closest thing to this effect with marijuana use is when a person feels tired and falls asleep.

Conclusion

Though we do not condone driving under the influence of any substance, it is essential that people understand the real risks they face, and the legitimacy of claims like marijuana legalization making the roads more dangerous. Many of which simply are not true and cause unnecessary hysteria over an action that has always been performed regardless of the plant’s legal status in a country. There are no more people now driving while high than there were before marijuana use became a legal activity and those who choose cannabis are a lot less dangerous in general including in our homes and on our roads than those who prefer to use alcohol instead.

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