Federal researchers are calling it the most comprehensive study of marijuana’s effect on driving to date.
Twenty volunteers got high from marijuana grown at the federal government’s only sanctioned marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi. They were then told to get behind the wheel. No, not on the roads, but in the federally funded National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) at the University of Iowa.
After consuming specific combinations of marijuana and alcohol, or a placebo, the participants “drove” in a full-sized vehicle while the roadway was projected in a 360 degree view on the domed walls around them. Researchers had previously developed programs to test the effects of texting and driving, and drunk driving. However, researchers had to design environments to specifically test the effects of marijuana while driving.
“There were six different driving sessions in this huge simulator,” said Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug abuse. “We designed many different situations, including an urban portion with crowds and lights, a highway section and a rural section — all with a lot of divided attention tasks. There are issues of deer coming out on the roadway, people coming out on the crosswalk, directions telling drivers to turn at certain locations, as well as cars approaching and passing.”
During the study, the researchers collected blood and saliva samples from the participants to determine their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and blood alcohol content levels.
The researchers hope to have initial data by October and you can be sure that I’ll be keeping track of the results.
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