Driving under the influence of regular cannabis has always been a no-no. The intoxicating effect of the psychoactive high causes short-term cognitive impairment which would make anybody, even a seasoned cannabis user, a danger to other road users. However, what about driving after taking cannabidiol (CBD)?
CBD products are made from either cannabis or hemp, but are not comparable to typical cannabis, as they are non-psychoactive. People take CBD for therapeutic relief from a variety of physical and psychological ailments, and the cannabinoid seems to be growing exponentially in popularity through the 2010s. That makes the question of whether it’s safe to get behind the wheel after medicating with CBD one of ever-increasing importance.
In this article, we’ll explain what CBD is, and explore why it doesn’t induce the psychoactive effects of cannabis, despite being a cannabinoid. And we’ll also determine whether it’s safe to combine CBD with driving.
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid from the cannabis plant which has attracted major societal interest in recent times. CBD is styled as “cannabis that doesn’t get you high,” which is true, albeit a simplified analysis. Cannabinoids are mysterious compounds which have a significant impact over the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), an ancient nexus made up of receptors, enzymes, and fat-based neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids. CBD makes subtle adjustments to this system, hence why it has therapeutic properties.
CBD is being used already to treat immune system problems, mood slumps, pain, appetite irregularities, skin conditions, sleep issues and much, much more, despite not yet being approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. While CBD’s effectiveness as a medicine is still up for debate and will not be confirmed until a slew of clinical trials on humans have been carried out, the World Health Organization (WHO) has assessed the cannabinoid and clarified its position – they stated that CBD has “no abuse potential,” following a meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence in December 2017.
The taboo surrounding cannabis is now being quickly eradicated, as the media concentrates on positive stories about medical marijuana. Public support is also swinging massively in favor, and this will all contribute to the speeding up of scientific understanding, as barriers to research drop. With CBD products already being sold legally online and in health and grocery stores, people are already self-medicating with CBD vape oil and e-liquid, edibles, pills, oils, syrups, concentrates and creams.
Why is CBD non-psychoactive?
For a cannabinoid to be psychoactive, it has to be an agonist of the CB1 receptor. Despite only being a partial agonist, the cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is very potent, which is why it can make major changes to mood and appetite, and even induce mild visuals.
In complete contrast, CBD is an antagonist of the receptor, and even possesses antipsychotic properties. The cannabinoid can still stimulate positive mood changes, but this is through the promotion of anandamide, an endocannabinoid which agonises the CB1 receptor, but is much less potent than THC.
Since CBD is non-psychoactive, many users don’t think twice after taking it about how it may affect them, and whether it could impact their ability to drive.
CBD is a biphasic cannabinoid
CBD is a biphasic drug, and that means its effects differ depending on the dose, further complicating matters in regard to driving. This is not a rare trait for a drug, as caffeine and alcohol are also biphasic. But as a biphasic substance, just because a 50mg dose of CBD causes a certain reaction doesn’t mean that a 100mg dose will create double the effect.
In low amounts, CBD works as a stimulant, and helps to make the user more alert while boosting wakefulness – this could actually be beneficial for driving. However, in larger concentrations, CBD is a sedative, and its calming and relaxing effects make it a popular sleep agent – this, clearly, would not be good for driving.
As a medicine, the biphasic effects of CBD increase the number of conditions that it’s able to treat. Small doses are great for boosting concentration and mental clarity, while big doses are perfect for those suffering from insomnia and other sleep-related conditions. With more studies on CBD, medical scientists will get an improved idea on which doses will offer patients the best relief for their illnesses.
Is it legal to drive after taking CBD?
Driving with CBD in your system is perfectly legal, as drug tests only look for psychoactive THC. But while you’re not breaking any laws from taking CBD before hitting the road, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should. However, while we’re on this point, it’s worth mentioning that full or broad-spectrum CBD products may contain traces of THC, and that if you medicate regularly with high dosages of these, a test may pick this up. This shouldn’t affect your driving ability though, as CBD is renowned for cancelling out THC’s psychoactive properties.
Driving after a small dose of CBD should not be a problem. As already stated, the stimulating effects may be more of a help than a hindrance. But larger doses should be more cause for concern – after all, you wouldn’t drive a car after taking a sleeping pill!
Perhaps the best thing to do is to know exactly how your body will respond to a specific dose by first consuming it in a safe environment, where you don’t have to worry about driving. Providing that you know how your body will react to a set quantity of CBD, you should be equipped to make a decision on driving. It’s impossible to say how much CBD is too much, as body weight, metabolism and other factors can change the impact of the dose.