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Original Investigation
December 1, 2020

Effect of Cannabidiol and Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Driving Performance: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2Brain and Mind Centre, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 3Central Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • 4Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
  • 5Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney School of Psychology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
JAMA. 2020;324(21):2177-2186. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.21218
Key Points

Question  What is the magnitude and duration of driving impairment following vaporization of cannabis containing varying concentrations of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)?

Findings  In this crossover clinical trial that included 26 healthy participants who underwent on-road driving tests, the standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP, a measure of lane weaving, swerving, and overcorrecting) at 40 to 100 minutes following vaporized consumption was 18.21 cm for CBD-dominant cannabis, 20.59 cm for THC-dominant cannabis, 21.09 cm for THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis, and was 18.26 cm for placebo. At 240 to 300 minutes, the SDLP was 19.03 cm for CBD-dominant cannabis, 20.59 cm for THC-dominant cannabis, 19.88 cm for THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis, and 19.37 cm for placebo. Compared with placebo, SDLP with THC-dominant and THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis was significantly greater at 40 to 100 minutes but not 240 to 300 minutes after consumption; there were no significant differences between CBD-dominant cannabis and placebo.

Meaning  Although this study did not find statistically significant differences in driving performance during experimental on-road driving tests between CBD-dominant cannabis and placebo, the effect size may not have excluded clinically important impairment, and the doses tested may not necessarily represent common usage.

Abstract

Importance  Cannabis use has been associated with increased crash risk, but the effect of cannabidiol (CBD) on driving is unclear.

Objective  To determine the driving impairment caused by vaporized cannabis containing Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A double-blind, within-participants, randomized clinical trial was conducted at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University in the Netherlands between May 20, 2019, and March 27, 2020. Participants (N = 26) were healthy occasional users of cannabis.

Interventions  Participants vaporized THC-dominant, CBD-dominant, THC/CBD-equivalent, and placebo cannabis. THC and CBD doses were 13.75 mg. Order of conditions was randomized and balanced.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary end point was standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP; a measure of lane weaving) during 100 km, on-road driving tests that commenced at 40 minutes and 240 minutes after cannabis consumption. At a calibrated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02%, SDLP was increased relative to placebo by 1.12 cm, and at a calibrated BAC of 0.05%, SDLP was increased relative to placebo by 2.4 cm.

Results  Among 26 randomized participants (mean [SD] age, 23.2 [2.6] years; 16 women), 22 (85%) completed all 8 driving tests. At 40 to 100 minutes following consumption, the SDLP was 18.21 cm with CBD-dominant cannabis, 20.59 cm with THC-dominant cannabis, 21.09 cm with THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis, and 18.28 cm with placebo cannabis. SDLP was significantly increased by THC-dominant cannabis (+2.33 cm [95% CI, 0.80 to 3.86]; P < .001) and THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis (+2.83 cm [95% CI, 1.28 to 4.39]; P < .001) but not CBD-dominant cannabis (−0.05 cm [95% CI, −1.49 to 1.39]; P > .99), relative to placebo. At 240 to 300 minutes following consumption, the SDLP was 19.03 cm with CBD-dominant cannabis, 19.88 cm with THC-dominant cannabis, 20.59 cm with THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis, and 19.37 cm with placebo cannabis. The SDLP did not differ significantly in the CBD (−0.34 cm [95% CI, −1.77 to 1.10]; P > .99), THC (0.51 cm [95% CI, −1.01 to 2.02]; P > .99) or THC/CBD (1.22 cm [95% CI, −0.29 to 2.72]; P = .20) conditions, relative to placebo. Out of 188 test drives, 16 (8.5%) were terminated due to safety concerns.

Conclusions and Relevance  In a crossover clinical trial that assessed driving performance during on-road driving tests, the SDLP following vaporized THC-dominant and THC/CBD-equivalent cannabis compared with placebo was significantly greater at 40 to 100 minutes but not 240 to 300 minutes after vaporization; there were no significant differences between CBD-dominant cannabis and placebo. However, the effect size for CBD-dominant cannabis may not have excluded clinically important impairment, and the doses tested may not represent common usage.

Trial Registration  EU Clinical Trials Register: 2018-003945-40

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