Health Canada released the results of its annual Canadian Cannabis Survey (CSS). The survey, which is now in its third year, indicates a decrease in the prevalence of cannabis use prior to driving.
We are now two full years since the legalization of cannabis in Canada. You may recall the doomsday predictions prior to 2018 that legalization would lead to a flood of stoned drivers causing chaos on the roads. The theory went that the availability of legal weed would make people more relaxed about its impairing effects, thereby bringing about Carmageddon. And yet here we are, two years later and there’s yet another study proving the scaremongering wrong.
Decrease in smoking cannabis before driving
By-and-large, there has been little to no increase in cannabis-impaired driving offences in police statistics. The CSS suggests this may be down to people’s attitudes and cannabis habits as much as anything else. First off, among the people surveyed who had used cannabis in the past 12 months, 22% said they had ever driven within two hours of smoking or vapourizing cannabis. This was a decrease from 26% in 2019. Of those, 39% did so within the past 30 days, 32% within the past 12 months, and 29% more than 12 months ago.
Among the same group, 13% reported that they had ever driven within four hours of ingesting a cannabis product, such as a weed edible. This was also a decrease from 16% the year before. Of those 32%) did so within the past 30 days, 40% within the past 12 months, and 29% more than 12 months ago.
Also, 23% of respondents reported having ever been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who had recently used cannabis; compared to 28% in 2019.
According to the survey, smoking or vaping cannabis within two hours of driving was more prevalent among men than women (28% compared to 15%). Cannabis use prior to driving was more common among people aged 20 to 24 years and 25 years or older than those aged 16 to 19-years-old.
People who reported they had driven within two hours of smoking/vapourizing cannabis in combination with alcohol was 19%. Men also had a higher prevalence (21%) of driving within two hours of cannabis use in combination with alcohol than females (15%). Meanwhile, 7% of cannabis users said they had driven a vehicle within two hours of using cannabis in combination with other drugs, the same as in 2019.
Something that might explain the decrease in cannabis use before driving is people’s attitudes. The most common reason people gave for using cannabis prior to driving was that they did not feel impaired. Only 2% said they had an interaction with police related to cannabis-impaired driving in the past year. This would suggest there are still a lot of people who use cannabis and drive because they believe themselves unimpaired.
However, when asked the survey asked cannabis users their opinion on cannabis use and driving, 77% said they think cannabis use affects driving. This would mean the vast majority of cannabis users do think it’s unsafe to drive under its influence whereas those who do use cannabis and drive are less likely to agree with it. So attitudes would appear to be a major factor in determining why people consume cannabis before driving.