Post-Heritage Day long weekend: Driving back to Calgary in gnarled traffic, past emergency vehicles and a car upended on its side is a stark reminder of the warning for drivers hitting the road: ‘shiny side up.’

With medicinal cannabis, Natural Health Services recommends dosing at the minimum effective amount, as well as not driving within four hours of medicating with THC vapour or smoke, and potentially longer for oil as it lasts longer in your system. (You should be fine to drive on the non-psychoactive CBD but try it at home first to gauge the effects.)

Canadians’ attitudes about cannabis, its therapeutic benefits, and those who use it, is (thankfully) moving in a more progressive direction.

However, there are a few things that shouldn’t, such as laws and safety awareness around impairment and operating heavy machinery (cars included). Laws err to the side of caution. Things can go ‘sideways’ fast. It takes a split second of reduced motor function or lack of focus to negatively impact lives forever.

Lack of sleep, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol and cannabis can all contribute to impairment — some more detectable than others. Although alcohol consumption is the most measurable, roadside testing is still possible with other drugs.

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Microdosing with cannabis… why less is more

What is an edible?

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Accepting medical cannabis in the workplace

Earlier this year, the federal government introduced Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults, while Bill C-46 proposes amendments to the Criminal Code around impaired-driving laws and grant law enforcement new roadside testing powers. These proposed changes, if passed, may set the bar for strongest impaired-driving laws in the world (although the EU, UK, Australia and some U.S. states have close to zero tolerance).

Once passed, the toughened laws would give police authority to demand roadside saliva tests if they suspect someone is driving high — a significant shift as officers now must have a reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence before testing. The argument around this being unconstitutional is not expected to win out.

A positive reading could lead to further testing including a blood test. A driver who is found to have between two and five nanograms of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood could face a fine up to $1,000.

If a driver has over five nanograms per ml or has been drinking alcohol at the same time, that driver will face a financial penalty and the possibility of jail time — up to 10 years in prison if convicted. (For context, an average rolled joint may be one-third of a gram and easily result in 20 — 35 nanograms of THC per ml of blood.)

Among roadside drug testing systems currently in use is the ‘Drug Wipe’, which can detect traces of cannabis, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines and ketamine.

To be safe, always test medicinal cannabis dosages at home when you have a few commitment free hours. Remember that:

  • Depending on varying factors, your dose will sometimes be more ‘effective’ than others.
  •  Mixing alcohol and THC can give unexpected results.
  • Ingestion methods will significantly affect results (edibles will affect you differently than the pulmonary route of vaping/smoking for instance). With edibles, you may feel next to nothing for 60 minutes and then find yourself very psycho-activated. Remember that the peak effects of edibles may be felt two hours after ingesting, and plan accordingly.

Shiny side up!

— Written by Kait Shane, Natural Health Services. Follow Kait on Twitter @Medikait.

For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to tune into The Cannabis Show, and make sure to subscribe as there is a new episode every Wednesday.

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