Hard stop: Despite what some drivers may think, cannabis is unlikely to make them better behind the wheel

Everyone has that friend. You know the one: the one who insists that he or she can “totally drive better” after smoking a nice, fat joint.

But can cannabis actually make a person a better driver? One researcher from the University of Calgary is not convinced; in fact, she says it’s highly unlikely.

“The idea is people who are high are aware that they are high and attempt to compensate for it by slowing down and increasing their following distance,” researcher and PhD candidate Sarah Simmons told the CBC News this week.

“But those are only two components of driving. There is still the detection and response to on-road hazards, the ability to keep the vehicle in the lane laterally, longitudinally, just the control of the vehicle in general,” Simmons pointed out.

Although the effects of driving on cannabis may commonly be believed to be less serious than those of driving post-alcohol consumption, she makes clear that getting behind the wheel post-sesh is not without major risks.

“What we know for certain from several meta-analyses, the best-quality evidence you can get, is that the crash risk associated with having cannabis in your system increases up to about double. If you have it in your system, you are up to twice as likely to crash versus if you don’t have it in your system,” she said. This, she explained, is an association, as opposed to a definite “causal relationship.”