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Marijuana And Actual Driving Performance

U.S. Department of Transportation,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(DOT HS 808 078), Final Report, November 1993


Subjects in all studies were recreational users of marijuana or hashish, i.e., smoking the drug more than once a month, but not daily. They were all healthy, between 21 and 40 years of age, had normal weight and binocular acuity, and were licensed to drive an automobile. Furthermore, law enforcement authorities were contacted, with the volunteers' consent, to verify that they had no previous arrests or convictions for drunken driving or drug trafficking.

Each subject was required to submit a urine sample immediately upon arrival at the test site. Samples were assayed qualitatively for the following common 'street drugs' (or metabolites): cannabinoids, benzodiazepines, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and barbiturates. In addition a breath sample was analyzed for the presence of alcohol. Blood samples were repeatedly taken after smoking by venepuncture. Quantitative analysis of THC and THC-COOH in plasma was performed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (gc/ms) using deuterated cannabinoids as internal standards.

Marijuana and placebo marijuana cigarettes were supplied by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The lowest and highest THC concentrations in the marijuana cigarettes used in the studies were 1.75% and 3.57%, respectively. Subjects smoked the administered cigarettes through a plastic holder in their customary fashion.

Subjects were accompanied during every driving test by a licensed driving instructor. A redundant control system in the test vehicle was available for controlling the car, should emergency situations arise.

In each study, subjects repeatedly performed certain simple laboratory tests (e.g. critical instability tracking, hand and posture stability), estimated their levels of intoxication and indicated their willingness to drive under several specified conditions of urgency. In addition, heart rate and blood pressure were measured. Results of these measurements are reported elsewhere (Robbe, 1994).


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