Driving while Stoned in Florida. How Dangerous is It and What you Need to Know
Driving while stoned in Florida. How dangerous is it and what you need to know. It’s hard to see now, there was a time when society doubted driving drunk was dangerous. There was debate over whether you were more prone to having an accident. A time when people were not sure there’s a need for anti-drunk driving laws. There were no measures as to how to tell how drunk a person was. Thanks to science, these problems now look too simple to ponder on. Similar scenarios are gradually popping up with cannabis.
Either medical or cannabis for recreation is legal in 33 states. As more people use it for its benefits, potential problems are exposed. It remains unclear whether driving while high is a problem needing attention. Even if it’s a problem, what do we do about it?
Many Americans think they can drive safely under the influence of weed. According to PSB research support this fallacy. 48% of current cannabis users in the country believe there’s no harm. Another 17% claim it’s “very safe.” Predictably, experimental evidence reveals the opposite. Research shows that THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, affects every measure of safe driving. Weed impairs critical driving skills such as perception of time, speed, attention level, decision-making, etc.
To the contrary, field results show the cannabis effect on driving is not as clear-cut as thought. First, there is no evidence linking increased cannabis use and a higher frequency of fatal crashes. A 2017 study reviewed annual changes in motor vehicle death crash rates for Washington and Colorado. The rates post cannabis legalization did not notably differ from control states.
Another study was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They gave subjects alcohol, weed or both, then placed them in a driving simulator. The results revealed that stoned drivers could be described as “more cautious.” They “showed reduced mean speeds and increased time driving below the speed limit. This group had an increased following distance during a car following task.” On the other hand, the drunk drivers had “higher mean speeds (over the speed limit). There was also a greater changes in speed, and a greater percent of time driving above the speed limit."
In conclusion, the study found cannabis drivers tend to “drive slower, follow other cars at greater distances, and take fewer risks than when sober.” A separate study conducted in 2010 also supports this finding. The study was published in the American Journal of Addiction, and it concluded that “marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively while driving by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies.” This partly explains why drivers high on cannabis seem very dangerous in theory, but not so bad when tested.
Should I then Drive While I’m High?
The plain answer is No! Driving under the influence of weed is still broadly seen as ‘driving under the influence’. This, of course, remains illegal. Even if medical or recreational weed is legal in your state, you should not drive while you’re impaired. You could be posing a danger to yourself and other road users.
How Do I Know if I’m Too High to Drive?
There is a major problem with anti-stoned driving laws. It is difficult to define ‘impairment’ when it comes to cannabis. For alcohol, we have a much better idea. Numerous charts could help you estimate how many bottles of beer would get you intoxicated. These estimates are based on your sex and body weight. However, judging the effects of THC is much more difficult.
Standardization is sparking a wave of measurement improvement. However, it’s still difficult to know how much THC is in one puff of a joint. The effects also vary by weight, potency, and user experience. Thus, you might not be able to set a proper limit for yourself if you plan not to get too stoned to drive. To be on the safe side, its thought that you should wait at least four hours after using any form of weed before driving. If you’re a heavy user, you might need to wait for a longer period.
What Happens if You’re Pulled over While Under the Influence of Cannabis?
Every adult driver knows the drill with alcohol- the cops stop you and make you exhale into the breathalyzer. If the breathalyzer tells them you’re too drunk to be driving, you’re in for a difficult day or night as the case may be. For weed, however, things are much more complex. There is no breathalyzer-type device that can precisely measure how much THC you have in your system.
Even if there was, the amount of THC in your blood might not be a true indicator of how high you are. Alcohol is broken down and excreted within a short period. THC levels rise in your blood over time. Your body may not get rid of all the edible you are today until the next week. Most states have set a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per ml of blood for the sake of standard setting.
Field Sobriety Test
Usually, you may first have to take a Field Sobriety Test to have an idea of your level of impairment. If you’re stoned, you may have a hard time passing that test. It measures roughly the same parameters as the cognitive studies that suggest stoned drivers are unsafe drivers. Depending on your state, you may also be subjected to a Drug Influence Evaluation (DIE). In this test, a Drug Recognition Expert examines you for physical signs of drug use. Some clues are an abnormal blood pressure, red eyes, dilation of the pupils, etc. You will then be subjected to a blood test if you fail the tests above. In some states, you might still be subjected to a test without failing the Field Sobriety Test or DIE.
How do DUID Laws Work for Stoned Drivers?
The answer to this would depend on the state you live in. Eleven American states (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin) have stringent anti-DUID laws. You will violate the states’ DUID laws if you have a ‘measurable’ amount of THC or its metabolites in your blood. The amount of THC in your blood does not correlate with impairment since THC can stay in the blood for long periods. Therefore, the laws in these states are controversial.
Montana, Washington, Ohio, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have anti-stoned driving laws. In these states, they work exactly like anti-drunk-driving laws. The blood test will show if you have more than the threshold amount of THC while behind the wheels. If this five nanograms per ml of blood level is exceeded, you have violated the DUID laws.
Anti-Stoned Driving Laws
In some states, DUID laws require the state to prove the cannabis in your system is the cause of the observed impairment at the time of the traffic stop or crash.
It is clear that stoned driving laws may vary from state to state. However, there is no argument that driving while impaired is illegal and careless. And if you think you can do it because it’s less dangerous than drunk driving, you should know that it’s not exactly safe. Reliable reports have shown a link between increased cannabis use and car crashes. If you’re using medical or recreational weed, you’re better off at your desk or in some other quiet place. While under the influence of cannabis there’s no point taking an unnecessary risk. It may backfire into a costly, painful epic fail in the long run.
When using cannabis for any medical purpose, it is crucial to get legal. Self-prescribing could put you at risk of a wide range of conditions you may not even know about. At KindHealth in Miami, Florida, we have experienced cannabis doctors. They will review your case and help you obtain a Florida medical cannabis card. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
Have thoughts about getting a Florida mmj card, or where to go for an evaluation and cannabis license? Whether you’re just researching or ready to get your MMJ card, we’re here to help. For another article, read "The 411 on Florida Medical Marijuana Card". Check out our KindHealth blog.