Researchers in Colorado are investigating the effects of cannabis on driving and are seeking volunteers to get high and drive for the study. Participants in the research will be paid for their time, but they’ll have to bring their own weed to smoke, according to a report in local media. Ashley Brooks-Russell, an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, is the co-director of the research into how daily or less frequent cannabis use affects drivers’ performance behind the wheel.
“The goal is to better understand impaired driving so that we can prevent impaired driving,” said Brooks-Russell.
Micahel Kosnett, an associate clinical professor and medical toxicologist who is also co-directing the study, said that while drunk driving has been the subject of extensive research, the same is not true for marijuana.
“We know that certain drugs really deteriorate people’s performance behind the wheel. Alcohol is the classic example for that,” said Kosnett. “Our understanding of how cannabis affects driving is less well developed.”
To conduct the study, participants will have their driving skills tested before and after cannabis use. They will also be evaluated through other tests including one that tracks eye movements in virtual reality goggles and another which measures hand-eye coordination and decision making with an iPad. Researchers want to learn if such devices could be used to determine impairment by law enforcement officers in roadside sobriety tests.
“This is one more tool they could bring to the roadside to understand impairment,” said Brooks-Russell.
Unlike alcohol, levels of THC in the blood may not be an accurate indicator of driving impairment. Despite this, Colorado currently has a limit of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in effect for drivers. Medical marijuana patient Tyler Prock believes that such arbitrary restrictions are unjust.
“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,” Prock said. “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.”
Prock said that while he regularly drives after using cannabis, he would never do so while impaired.
“Well, I’ve used it almost every day for the past seven years,” he said. “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.”
He even believes that he is safer behind the while after using cannabis “because back pain is tough, and it can be as distracting as anything else,” Prock said.
Participants in the cannabis driving study will be required to make two visits in a period of one week to the research lab in Aurora and will be paid $140 upon completing both sessions. For more information and to complete an eligibility survey, visit the Colorado School of Public Health website.
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