Two-thirds of Americans think it’s unsafe to drive under the influence of cannabis, according to a new survey by PSB Research, Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, and BuzzFeed News.
But one demographic is less inclined to agree — cannabis users, who are more likely to think it’s safe to drive high and far more comfortable being a passenger in a car driven by someone who’s stoned.
The survey found that 48% of current cannabis users in the United State think it’s safe to drive on cannabis — 17% of current users said it’s “very safe” and 31% said it is “somewhat safe” to drive high. A slightly smaller number of users, 46%, disagreed. Six percent of users said they didn’t know.
The poll — conducted this spring with interviews of 1,200 Americans — found that 27% of the country identifies as a current cannabis consumer, and those users are inclined to hold different opinions when asked about driving.
Just 14% of nonusers believed it was safe to drive high. Three-quarters of nonusers in the US thought driving under the influence of cannabis is unsafe, while 11% said they didn’t know.
Critics of legalization have warned that allowing cannabis use and sales will lead to more stoned people behind the wheel. Accordingly, the poll found that was also the most compelling argument against legalization.
Overall, 47% of Americans thought the possibility of legalization putting more stoned drivers on the road was a strong argument — 52% of nonusers and 36% of users agreed.
Cannabis users themselves have leveled counterattacks. In California, Colorado, Washington, and other states, groups of users have argued against strict limits on driving high contained in legalization laws, saying the rules are unfair and arbitrary.
Science on driving under the influence of cannabis is limited, though some studies have found people with more than 5 nanograms of THC (the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis) per milliliter of whole blood perform more poorly on impairment tests.
But cutoffs are problematic, too, because some people are impaired at far lower levels than heavy users. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a 2017 report that THC level alone “does not appear to be an accurate and reliable predictor of impairment.”
Researchers have come to different conclusions about whether legalization led to more traffic accidents, the Washington Post reported last year.
The PSB survey also asked about being in a car where the driver is under the influence. Seventy-four percent of Americans said they were “very uncomfortable” or “somewhat uncomfortable” with their driver being under the influence of cannabis.
But again, many users think otherwise. While 56% of users said they’d be comfortable with a stoned driver, just 16% of nonusers agreed.
The topline results of the survey can be found here.
Methodology: PSB, in partnership with Civilized, Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW), and BuzzFeed News, conducted online interviews with 1,000 US adults (age 21+) and 602 Canadian adults (age 19+) to explore views on cannabis and to determine general habits and behaviors of cannabis consumers and nonconsumers. Oversamples were conducted to reach a higher number of cannabis consumers (yielding 471 total consumers in the US and 371 total consumers in Canada). Interviews were conducted between March 12 and March 21, 2019.