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“The road safety risks associated with medical cannabis appear to be similar or less than many other potentially debilitating prescription drugs.”

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Emma spears FILE: Ontario Provincial Police Const. John Rozich, left, demonstrates part of the drug detection test with an OPP aid officer in Ottawa. / Photo from Postmedia

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Medical cannabis users have had problems driving their cars for a long time, especially since THC can still be detected days or weeks after the end of an acute impairment. In 2019, a Nova Scotia woman even launched a constitutional challenge after being arrested for impaired driving in a road test more than six hours after taking her medication.

The authors speculate that the fear of medical cannabis users on the street and subsequent legislation stems from the legal status and social stigma of cannabis, as opposed to an increased security threat.

“The use of presence-based crimes on medical cannabis patients appears to derive from the historical status of cannabis as a banned drug with no legitimate medical use,” the study said.

Additionally, the study authors suggest that the harms associated with preventing medicinal cannabis users from driving may outweigh any possible benefit. “This approach results in harm to the patient, including criminal penalties if they are not impaired and using the drug as directed by the doctor, or loss of car use and mobility. Others who have to drive are excluded from access to the drugs they need and the associated therapeutic benefits, ”they write.

The researchers cited examples such as patients taking prescribed drugs like methadone receiving medical exemptions that allow them to drive, citing the option “a viable alternative approach”. Ultimately, however, they advocate a regulatory change when it comes to medical cannabis users and driving.

“In purely medical access models, there is little evidence to justify treating patients differently with medicinal cannabis versus those taking other prescription drugs with potentially impairing effects,” the researchers conclude.

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