The Chicago Journal

The Risks of Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis in Canada: A Detailed Analysis

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In recent years, the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada has prompted significant discussions about its impact on road safety. This article delves into a comprehensive study conducted in the past, shedding light on the dangers associated with driving while under the influence of cannabis. The study’s findings, trends, and implications are explored in detail.

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Alarming Trends in Marijuana-Related Accidents

A Study’s Startling Revelation

A study conducted in Canada following the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018 revealed startling insights into the relationship between cannabis use and traffic accidents. Documented marijuana-related traffic accidents requiring emergency room treatment skyrocketed by a staggering 475% between 2010 and 2021. This figure far outstripped the comparatively modest 9.4% growth in car crashes due to drunk driving during the same period.

The Implications of Increased Accidents

Addressing the Concerns

Dr. Daniel Myran, the study’s author and an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, expressed concerns about these rising numbers. He pointed out that the increase in severe traffic injuries may indicate a broader trend of increased cannabis-impaired driving over time, especially after legalization.

Immediate Impact After Legalization

Unveiling the Aftermath

In the immediate aftermath of cannabis legalization in 2018, when cannabis products were relatively limited, researchers observed a staggering 94% surge in emergency room visits related to cannabis use while driving. As the commercialization of cannabis increased, these visits grew by a substantial 233% compared to the period before recreational cannabis became legal.

Severity of Marijuana-Related Crashes

The Study’s Eye-Opening Findings

Notably, car crashes involving cannabis users were found to be particularly serious. Approximately 90% of victims involved in marijuana-related accidents arrived at the emergency room by ambulance. In contrast, this number dropped to 40% when neither alcohol nor cannabis was involved. Moreover, almost 50% of marijuana users in car accidents required hospital admission, compared to just over 6% of those who did not use cannabis.

The Need for Intensive Care

Critical Care Admissions

Intensive care admissions also displayed a stark contrast. Nearly 22% of accidents involving individuals driving while under the influence of cannabis required intensive care, whereas just less than 2% of crashes without alcohol or cannabis involvement necessitated the same level of care.

Why Cannabis Impairs Driving

Understanding the Mechanisms

Dr. Myran emphasized that cannabis impacts driving performance by reducing reaction time, impairing the ability to focus, and potentially increasing risk-taking behavior. These factors can result in more severe traffic collisions and a higher need for medical care for those involved.

Global Implications

Beyond Canada’s Borders

While the study focused on Canada, it’s essential to recognize that this issue extends beyond its borders. Areas where recreational cannabis use is legal worldwide have faced similar challenges, as highlighted in a recent “umbrella review” of more than 100 clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Misconceptions and Risks

Challenging Misconceptions

Many individuals underestimate the dangers of driving while under the influence of cannabis. This perception is flawed, as research consistently demonstrates that THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, impairs psychomotor skills, multitasking abilities, lane tracking, cognitive functions, and overall attention while driving.

Potency Matters

The Rising Potency

Dr. Myran pointed out another concerning factor: the increasing potency of cannabis products. Higher-strength products lead to more impairment and risk. Additionally, combining cannabis with alcohol amplifies the impairing effects of both substances.

Lack of Defined Limits

Uncertainty Surrounding Safe Limits

In contrast to alcohol, where clear legal limits exist for driving (0.08% blood alcohol content in the United States), there are no established safe levels for cannabis use while driving. The risk of impairment depends on multiple factors, making it challenging to provide definitive guidelines.

The Urgent Need for Education

Addressing the Problem

Experts agree that education is paramount in addressing the growing concern of driving under the influence of cannabis. The general public, especially the younger population, must be informed about the risks associated with cannabis use while driving. Moreover, products containing THC should include evidence-based warnings, similar to those seen on tobacco cigarette packaging.


In conclusion, the study’s findings shed light on the alarming increase in traffic accidents related to cannabis use in Canada. These trends emphasize the need for continued research, education, and awareness to ensure road safety and reduce the risks associated with driving while under the influence of cannabis.