The number of Canadians who dare to hit the road after using cannabis has likely doubled since the legalization of marijuana in 2018, suggests data collected by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
To reach this conclusion, the researchers looked at blood samples taken between 2013 and 2020 from 4,339 drivers who ended up in trauma centers in British Columbia, following a road accident.
Researchers found that the percentage of accident motorists who drove with THC levels above the legal limit of 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood rose from 3.8% before legalization to 8.6% after entry into force of the Cannabis Act.
Also, 3.5% of drivers hospitalized after an accident since legalization had a THC level of more than 5 nanograms/ml, compared to 1.1% when consuming cannabis was criminal.
“It is worrying to see such a dramatic increase. There are great risks associated with driving after consuming cannabis,” said Dr.r Jeffrey Brubacher, associate professor in UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine and lead author of the study.
The rise in the number of cannabis-intoxicated drivers mainly affected men and people over the age of 50, the researchers noted. At the same time, the prevalence of drink-driving does not seem to have changed.
The Dr Brubacher says the laws aren’t tough enough to prevent cannabis-impaired driving.
“We hope that policy makers will use our findings to develop awareness campaigns and measures to encourage drivers, especially older ones, to stay away from cannabis while driving,” he said.
The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medecine in January.