It's widely accepted that recreational marijuana use will be legalized next year, but what's not clear is the effect of the drug's legalization on our streets and highways. The results of a survey released today by Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health showed the concerning finding that with an increase is people using, there has been a large increase in people driving while high.
The biennial survey, done since 1977, interviews 3,000 to 5,000 adults in Ontario to find trends in substance abuse and mental health issues. The results show that the number of respondents who admit to driving while high has doubled since 2010 from 1.5 percent to 3 percent in 2015. This is quickly reaching the same levels as those reporting that they drove after drinking, and is trending in the wrong direction (driving after drinking has fallen from 13 percent to 5 percent in the last 10 years).
Read More: Marijuana's Effects Behind the Wheel
It is a common belief that marijuana doesn't affect a person's ability to drive, but CAMH senior scientist Robert Mann is quick to dispute this. Speaking with the Canadian Press, main said that "they think it's not as dangerous as alcohol is, and maybe that they're even safer drivers if they're driving after cannabis use. That's not true and I think that's a dangerous perception for people to have." Mann also noted that research suggests driving while high significantly increases the risk of a collision. With legalization likely leading to increased use, this can become a very real traffic and public health hazard very quickly.
Detecting drivers who are high can be a challenge for law enforcement, as there are not quick and easy tests like there are for alcohol intoxication. With the drug becoming more common and legal in more places, expect law enforcement to develop new methods of detection as well as new campaigns to raise awareness of the risks.