For decades, law enforcement has used standardized equipment called breathalyzers to determine the blood-alcohol content of drivers and police-impaired driving. These tests take mere seconds to administer and can give police a decent estimation of how impaired a driver is. As cannabis reform has swept across the country and more states have legalized recreational cannabis, law enforcement and cannabis legalization opponents have argued that legalizing cannabis will inevitably lead to higher levels of impaired driving and road incidents.
We still don’t have a standard test to quickly measure delta-9 THC blood levels. Furthermore, there is relatively little evidence that the level of THC in the breath or blood from recent marijuana use is even associated with impaired driving. With at least a dozen states now allowing recreational cannabis use among adults aged 21 and older, the need to understand the correlation between recent cannabis use and impaired driving as well as develop ways to effectively measure impairment has become even more urgent.
A recent study published in “Scientific Reports” did just that, peering into the cannabis plant to study how cannabinoids impact impairment. Two researchers from California ran a one-year clinical study with 74 users who reported using cannabis daily for approximately nine years. The participants had an average age of 25 years, and most of them reported that smoking or vaping were their most preferred methods of consuming cannabis.
One group of study participants had a baseline THC blood level that surpassed THC limits in five U.S. states, even when they were completely sober. This means that in these five states, the study participants were not legally allowed to get behind a wheel even if they had not used any cannabis. Previous studies from Michael DeGregorio, one of the researchers behind the recent study, and other researchers had found that marijuana use could result in short-term functional impairment.
The extent of this impairment depends on factors such as frequency of use and age. Building on previous research, this study found that 16 cannabis users had more than 5ng/ml of delta-9 THC in their blood even though they had abstained from cannabis and were not impaired. Breath and blood samples indicated high THC levels despite no recent cannabis use and no impairment.
Participants who had used cannabis for longer periods had higher baseline THC concentration levels, which in many cases exceeded state limits. However, their duration of impairment was decreased, meaning they were impaired for shorter periods of time even though their baseline THC levels remained elevated. The researchers concluded that THC levels in exhaled breath and blood were not reliable indicators of THC impairment.
As more science-backed data becomes available, policymakers are likely to evolve and enact measures that allow companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) to serve indoor cannabis growers without any fear that reprisals will follow such commercial activity.
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