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Half Of US Marijuana Users Think They Can Drive Safely While High, Study Says

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As much as 48 percent of marijuana users in the United States said it is safe for them to drive while stoned. Of the total respondents, 17 percent said they are "very safe", while 31 percent said they are "somewhat safe".  ( Pixabay )

Nearly half of cannabis users in the United States believe it is safe for them to drive even when they are high.

In a study conducted by PSB Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, and BuzzFeed News, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 adult Americans about the prospect of driving after using marijuana.

While two-thirds of respondents said it is not safe to drive any vehicle under the influence of cannabis, about 27 percent beg to disagree.

Of the total number of marijuana users in the country, 48 percent of them said it is okay to take control of the wheel even on cannabis since it is safe. This can be further divided into 17 percent who claim it is "very safe" and 31 percent who said it is "somewhat safe".

Meanwhile, 46 percent of cannabis users said it is not safe to drive while stone, while the remaining 6 percent said they did not know.

The Marijuana Legalization Debate

Pro and anti-marijuana legalization have been arguing about the issue for several years now. Cannabis opponents claim that allowing the substance to be sold and use in the country would only lead to more stoned drivers on the street.

The issue is something that many survey participants felt strongly about, wherein 47 percent of them agree that the likelihood of more stone drivers making their way on the road makes a very convincing argument against legalization.

More than half (52 percent) of non-cannabis users agreed, while 36 percent of users said so as well.

Meanwhile, marijuana users have also raised concerns about restrictions included in legalization laws. Cannabis supporters in Colorado, California, Washington, and several other states said these rules are arbitrary and unfair to them.

Dangers Of Driving Under The Influence Of Cannabis

It is easy to think that driving while stoned has certain risks given the many documented instances of accidents related to intoxicated drivers. However, researchers have yet to establish a definitive stance on the impacts of cannabis on the senses as they did with alcohol.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, is known to affect people's attention levels and perception of time and speed. Both of these skills are necessary to be able to drive safely.

An analysis of 60 different studies on cannabis use has found that the substance can impair the abilities of people to safely drive vehicles. It affects their visual function, motor-coordination, and completion of complex tasks among other things.

However, a 2010 research argued that while cannabis can acutely impair people's driving-related skills, marijuana users make up for it by applying several behavioral strategies. The researchers found that marijuana did not make people drive worse, even if in theory this should be the case.

"Cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect," the authors said.

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came across similar findings in its own study. The agency found that people under the influence of marijuana tended to drive more cautiously and followed road safety rules more acutely.

Many of these stoned drivers found it difficult to stay within their lane, but they were still able to maintain within the speed limit and keep the proper distance between vehicles.

Both sets of findings needed to factor in the amount of THC the drivers used, as well as their level of tolerance for the substance, to arrive at their results.

Compared to drinking alcohol, where it is easy to count the number of bottles consumed, it is difficult for cannabis users to keep track of how much THC they have already taken in.

This is why such studies only have limited applicability when trying to determine whether drivers under the influence of marijuana would cause more road accidents in a real-world setting.

It would be more practical to find out whether the number of car crashes have increased in states that have already legalized cannabis.

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