Get access

Cannabis use: a perspective in relation to the proposed UK drug-driving legislation


  • Kim Wolff,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King's College London, London, UK
    • Correspondence to: Kim Wolff, Reader in Addiction Science, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King's College London, 150 Stamford Street, London SE1 9NH, UK. E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Atholl Johnston

    1. Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary, University of London, Charterhouse Square, UK
    Search for more papers by this author


With regard to THC (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive constituent identified in the plant Cannabis sativa L, several facts are indisputable. Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug in the UK among those who reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs in the previous 12 months. There is a significant dose-related decrement in driving performance following cannabis use; raised blood THC concentrations are significantly associated with increased traffic crash and death risk. When cannabis and alcohol are detected together, there is a greater risk to road safety than when either drug is used alone. Patterns of use are important when interpreting blood concentration data: Smoking infrequently a single cannabis cigarette leads to peak plasma THC concentrations (21-267 µg/L) causing acute intoxication. In habitual, daily users, plasma THC concentrations range from 1.0 to 11.0 µg/L and are maintained by sequestration of the drug from the tissues. These facts undoubtedly make setting thresholds for drug-driving legislation difficult but there is clearly a case for cannabis. Determining minimum blood THC concentrations at which a driver becomes sufficiently impaired to be unable to safely drive a vehicle is of particular concern given the increasing medicinal use of the drug. Internationally legislation for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is based on either a proof of impairment or a per se approach. For the latter this can be either zero-tolerance or based on concentration limits such as those used for alcohol. The different approaches are considered against current scientific evidence. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Get access to the full text of this article