The California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) has announced that they will soon be calling for volunteers to participate in a study in which they track marijuana levels while driving. They will begin conducting this study in order to get a better understanding of how cannabis reacts with the body while driving since this is something we still have very little knowledge of. As marijuana became legal in the state just a few years ago, in 2018, we have since been a bit blind to the body’s reactions to the drug when doing tasks in which inhibitions should not be limited.
Unlike alcohol, we currently have no defining point showing one is driving under the influence of marijuana.
The study is meant to serve as research for the DMV and the state to set up a proper limiting point that marks one as driving under the influence. Alcohol, for example, has a limit of 0.08 blood alcohol level which serves as the legal driving limit. If anyone behind the wheel tests to show a blood alcohol content at or above 0.08, then they are considered legally drunk and are driving under the influence. The study will allow the state to set a limit like this, but for marijuana.
The study will be conducted with participants split, some smoking actual marijuana and some smoking a placebo. After smoking, they will then begin driving around the California Highway Patrol Academy’s racetrack. The car they will be driving will have sensors within the vehicle that will record the driver’s actions. It will track the movements of the driver as well and show the accuracy within two centimeters.
The DMV and California Highway Patrol already do know some information regarding how the body reacts under the influence of cannabis. They know that typically a person under the influence of cannabis will have slower reaction times than a sober person. While behind the wheel, this can translate into how the driver turns the wheel, how they apply the brakes, and even how they accelerate.
When the drug was still illegal, officers received training on how to identify a person who is high.
CHP Officer Vince Ramirez says that in the training, they were taught to pay attention to things such as the way the person’s eyes look and the way the person speaks, looking for cues such as slurring or slower speech.
Currently the DMV has not begun looking for volunteers, but they will soon. They have already gotten approval from federal and state entities who need to approve of studies of this nature. The study will be overseen by the DMV and scientists from UC San Diego’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research, who will conduct analysis of the recorded data.