The short answer is, not as safe as the myths may make you believe.

Much has been made over the years about people driving stoned and those who drive straight or drunk. And in the marijuana community, much of what has been said has been mythical, or at least twisted facts into something that is not entirely true.

There has been an extensive body of research done regarding drunk driving and how varying levels of impairment adversely affect effective driving (which is why most states have lowered the legal blood-alcohol limit to .08 percent from .10 in past years). That body of research dates back to the 1950s and had been held as the gold standard of analysis by which other similar studies are measured.

The same cannot be said for hash, however.

The Myth

While some research about marijuana use behind the wheel actually does date back to the late 1960s – after all, there was interest in how everyone got to Woodstock without carpooling – but that research was a little bit shady and did not have much of the great analysis as the drunk-driving studies. One of the more well-known studies at the time only followed three known hallucinogenic users – not exactly a very scientific study as to the effects of marijuana use on driving ability.

There was a story that came out of a late 1980s study in which pot users claimed that peole who drive stoned were actually better than drivers who were sober, never mind drunk. That became a anthem for many weed users and for those who were getting caught drunk driving. If you can drive better high, then ditch the bottle and pick up a joint, right?

The Reality

That myth was a twisting of results from a famous Ramaekers study that was published in late 2000. The study involved some drivers being sober, others drunk, others high, and still others both high and drunk. The drivers were all subjected to the same course with a professional driving instructor in the car monitoring their driving.

What got twisted was the results of the study, which showed that the worst drivers were those who were both high and drunk, which will likely take no reader here by surprise. But what was found was that the stoned drivers actually did a little bit better than the drunk drivers.

But the idea that you drive better stoned than sober? Not exactly. Seems that the myth got started with the result that high drivers were better than drunks, but people chose (perhaps) to drop the word “drunk” in front of “driver.”

The bottom line is, when it comes to booze and weed, sober driving is always best, and it is possible to get a DUI even if you are only high and not drunk. As breathalyzers usually only detect blood-alcohol content, weed can get around that kind of test. But it is possible for you to fail a field sobriety test while high.

It is also possible for you to pass such a test. But with research saying that high driving is less safe that sober driving, why would you take that kind of chance? There’s no telling how many pulls on a joint it takes for you to fail a test. But at least, if you’re going to rely on some “scientific” study to justify driving while high, make sure you have your facts straight before you start ringing the anthem bells.


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