Researcher explores data on cannabis users

52.4 percent of sample reported it is safe to be high when driving



Carrie Cuttler, assistant professor of psychology, says people should realize the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana not only to themselves, but also the people around them.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

A WSU assistant professor partnered with researchers to study the relationship between using cannabis and driving.

Carrie Cuttler, assistant professor of psychology, said they wanted to understand the percentage of cannabis users who think it is safe to drive under the influence. They also wanted to find out the number of those who drive while they’re high, as well as the number of people who have received a ticket or experienced an accident.

Cuttler said they surveyed 1,773 cannabis users across the country. There were representatives from all 50 states, she said, with a majority of the participants from Washington.

“We just wanted to address the issue of how big [the] problem [is], what the magnitude of this problem [is, while] using a bit of a different approach,” she said. “To ask people, ‘Do you think it is safe to drive high?’ and ‘Do you do it?’ ”

Cuttler said 52.4 percent of the sample reported it is safe to drive high, and 52.1 percent admitted to driving within an hour of using cannabis.

Gabriel Haulk, general manager of Kush21, a local cannabis dispensary, said he does not support driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Haulk said he does not think cannabis will have a big effect on the time it takes for people to react if they do drive while high.

“I play video games while high and do not see a huge effect personally,” he said.

Cuttler said research done by others has shown there is anywhere from a 30 percent to a 50 percent increased risk of an accident when people drive high.

“The hope would be that we can decrease the percentage who think it is safe to drive high,” she said, “and decrease the percentage who actually drive high just to make people more aware that it does have an increase in risk.”

Haulk said he is aware of several individuals who like to have a joint on a long road trip, but he encourages people to operate a vehicle while they are sober.

Cuttler said people should realize that it is not just themselves that they are putting in danger when they get behind the wheel while high.

“People are going to do what they are going to do, but they can definitely decrease their risk and their risk to others,” she said. “People like me, a mother driving in her car with her child, are at increased risk when people are engaging in these practices.”