• Researchers at University of Colorado are looking for volunteers to get high and “drive”
  • Volunteers will be paid $140 for two trips to the Uni
  • Once high, volunteers will have their reaction times and attention tested on an iPad
  • Researchers hope this study can help police and employers better understand how THC impacts drivers and workers

Researchers at the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health are launching a new study to investigate the effect THC has on driving performance.

The research team are now looking for volunteers to get paid to high and play a hand-eye coordination game on an iPad.

That’s right: you can get paid to smoke weed!

Researchers are looking for cannabis users aged 25-46 with active driving license to participate in the study. Non-cannabis users are also being sought out to serve as control subjects.

Participants will be paid $140 to visit research labs twice within a one-week period.

The first visit will be to confirm eligibility, obtain informed consent, and include a few initial assessments.

The second visit will involve the actual research. Volunteers will be tested on their driving ability before and after cannabis consumption, by having their reaction time and attention measured by eye movement in virtual reality goggles and hand-eye coordination and decision-making on an iPad.

The study will also include up to 2 blood draws to track the participant’s medication, alcohol, and cannabis use throughout the course of the study.

Discussing the announcement of the study, co-lead researcher and Assistant Professor at the School of Public Health, Ashley Brooks-Russell, explained how the aim of the study is to investigate the practicality of using these tools to enhance field sobriety tests for police and employers:

“The goal is to better understand impaired driving so that we can prevent impaired driving.

“So, this is one more tool [police] could bring to the roadside to understand impairment.”

Michael Kosnett, Medical Toxicologist at the UoC and co-lead, added:

“We know that certain drugs really deteriorate people’s performance behind the wheel. Alcohol is a classic example for that.

“Our understanding of how cannabis affects driving is less well developed.”

We reported last week how there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis, specifically THC, has a negative impact on experienced medical cannabis users’ ability to drive safely.

Current drug driving laws in the US and UK do not take into account differing tolerance levels of cannabis users and how this may impact their driving ability.

Despite significant evidence showing that alcohol has a far more detrimental effect on a users ability to drive than cannabis, UK driving laws do not represent this.

While drivers are allowed up to 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.  Drivers are only allowed up to 2 micrograms of THC in the breath. For comparisons, drivers are allowed up to 5 micrograms of heroine and 10 micrograms of cocaine.

To put this into contect, you would fail this if you took just a few hits from a cannabis cigarette.

Clearly the law needs updating and brining into line, based off scientific evidence.

The people with most to gain from a reproach to drug driving laws are medical cannabis patients.

Although there are only a handful of patients who have obtained a medical cannabis prescription after cannabis was legalised for medicinal use in November 2018 (with the majority of those being children), the UK could see a rapid expansion of medical cannabis patients over the next 10 years.

Some of those patients will undoubtedly still need access to transport. Some may even need to keep driving.

As research has shown, THC does not impair experienced users’ driving skills, so the law will need updating to accommodate this.

Penalising medical cannabis patients for having an arbitrary level of THC in their breath or blood stream helps nobody. It will not keep our roads safer (in fact, research has found that legalising medical cannabis actually lowers the amount and severity of accidents on the road), it will only punish severely ill patients.

Discussing the impracticality of current THC limit in Colorado, Tyler Prock a medical cannabis patient, said:

“I’ve used [cannabis] almost every day for the past seven years, I feel like I’m a safe driver. I had one ticket in the past ten years ago and I’ve never had an accident.

“It’s not fair for the medicinal patients. Because cannabis stays in your system for about 30 days and if you use marijuana every day, the amount in your body is going to compound.

“You might not have used cannabis that day, but there is still cannabis in your system, so that could cause you to be positive on a test where you weren’t inebriated at all.”

If you live in Colorado and are interested in participating in the study, please click here to learn more and to take a survey to determine your eligibility.

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References and further Reading