Massive Study On Driving High To Take Place In California

By Paul Gaita 07/27/18

The study aims to give law enforcement more accurate parameters in which to determine a driver's intoxication level after using marijuana.

Image: 
key sitting atop a couple nuggets of marijuana

As marijuana gains legal status in more states, one of the central concerns among legal, law enforcement and medical professionals remains how cannabis use may impact driving.

Studies vary as to whether driving under the influence of alcohol or pot presents more of a danger, which has prompted institutions like the University of California-San Diego to seek hard data on the subject.

As High Times has reported, the school's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) is currently recruiting individuals to participate in its hands-on study of cannabis' impact on driving, which requires them to ingest smokeable marijuana before using the center's driving simulator.

The goal is to provide both police and laboratories with more accurate parameters on which to determine a driver's intoxication level after using marijuana.

The study, which according to High Times, is the largest of its kind to date, requires potential candidates to make an initial appointment with researchers to determine eligibility.

If accepted, the participant is paid $50, and returns for a full day assessment, during which they are given a joint to smoke; the study involves a variety of joints rolled on the site, as High Times indicates, and with varying amounts of THC, including ones with none of the psychoactive agent at all.

Participants then use the center's driving simulator and complete iPad-based performance assessments, which focus on memory, attention and motor skills. A field sobriety test is then given before blood and saliva samples are collected from them. Once all the data has been obtained, participants are paid an additional $180.

The goal of the study is not to determine if one's driving can be impaired by using marijuana, but rather, to determine the duration and level of impairment.

"If you smoked this morning, are you impaired throughout the day?" said Tom Marcotte, co-director of the CMCR. "Are you impaired for a couple of hours? Or are you not impaired? We're trying to answer that."

Ultimately, the researchers hope to improve field sobriety tests for marijuana use, which in their current form are used by law enforcement but considered unreliable in regard to determining THC levels in breath or fluid samples. In some cases, field sobriety tests cannot be used as evidence to determine whether a driver was impaired while behind the wheel.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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