UCSD researchers studying effects of cannabis use on drivers
The legalization of recreational cannabis raises new opportunities, and challenges, in addressing the health and safety effects of cannabis use.
UC San Diego researchers are studying all aspects of cannabis, including how it can affect drivers.
Lauren Phinney sat down with Thomas Marcotte, Co-Director Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UCSD, to talk about UCSD’s newest studies and findings.
Scientists at the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at UC San Diego have been conducting cannabis research since 2000. CMCR is home to numerous programs and clinical trials that evaluate the effect of cannabis and cannabinoids on various aspects of health and living, such as pain management and daily activities such as driving.
Currently, CMCR is conducting a clinical study, funded by the California Legislature (Assembly Bill 266, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act), to help with detection of driving under the influence of cannabis. Healthy volunteers inhale smoked cannabis with either 0% (placebo), 6.7%, or 12.6% THC at the beginning of the day, and then complete driving simulations, iPad-based performance assessments and bodily fluid draws (e.g., blood, saliva, breath) before the cannabis smoking and hourly over the subsequent 7 hours after cannabis smoking.
The purpose is to determine:
-The relationship of the dose of THC on driving performance
-The duration of driving impairment in terms of hours from initial use
-If saliva or expired air can serve as a useful substitute for blood sampling of THC in judicial hearings
-If testing using an iPad can serve as a useful adjunct to the standardized field sobriety test in identifying acute impairment from cannabis.
The clinical trial has tested 100 volunteers and have 80 more to go.