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CBD Oil & Driving: Is It Safe To Drive After Taking CBD In Australia?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a relatively new and exciting cannabis medicine available in Australia.

We are still learning about its effects and creating rules and laws the use of CBD, but the biggest question is, do we need to worry about taking CBD and driving?

Cannabis is a drug that has an intoxicating effect, and it is illegal to drive under the influence. CBD, however, is a non-intoxicating safe compound extracted from cannabis. It is generally safe and legal to drive after taking CBD in Australia, as long as the driver is not impaired.

Table of Contents.

The Quick Difference Between Cannabis and CBD

Cannabis and marijuana are well-known as a recreational drug, and only in recent years have they become available in Australia as a medicine.

The public image of cannabis is still stoners, drugs, couch potatoes, and party-goers, but perception is changing fast with everyday medicinal cannabis use becoming normal in Australia.

The cannabis plant and flower have psychoactive properties, the most popular being THC, that causes an intoxicating effect.

THC produces the intoxicating effect by interfacing with our bodies CB1 receptors found in our endocannabinoid system.

Due to this fact, many people assume that it is unsafe to drive under the influence of Cannabidiol (CBD) as it extracted from the same cannabis plant.

At a glance, it makes sense; however, extensive studies show that CBD is a non-intoxicating and non-psychoactive cannabis compound.

This means that it should not have any adverse effects on Australians and their abilities to drive safely.

What Is CBD?

CBD oil, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is the most popular medicinal cannabis medicine in Australia and New Zealand.

It is used to treat a broad range of medical conditions and their symptoms, including:

  • chronic pain
  • anxiety
  • epilepsy
  • muscle spasms
  • arthritis
  • fibromyalgia

The most common form of CBD prescribed to patients in Australia include:

  • CBD oil
  • cannabis Flower
  • full-spectrum CBD
  • CBD oil capsules
  • Wafers

Alongside CBD’s ability to treat pain and physical symptoms, CBD oil can treat anxiety and depression by inducing a feeling of calm, relaxation, and clarity for patients.

It can treat patients while causing no intoxicating or psychoactive effects on patients.

How Does CBD Affect Driving Safety?

CBD is known to change the mental state of patients by raising the levels of GABA and anandamide.

Higher levels of GABA and anandamide increase comfort, relaxation, and decreased anxiety and excitability.

CBD does affect the mental state of its patients, but it does not cause drowsiness or impair our motor functions and alertness required to drive safely.

It is important to remember that CBD’s effects are different for everyone, so some patients may feel unsafe to drive after taking CBD oil.

If you feel CBD has caused impairment and does affect your fitness to drive, you must avoid driving until the effects wear off.

It is legal to drive after taking CBD oil, but it is unsafe and illegal to drive under the influence of THC due to its intoxicating effects.

Read through the Australian government’s fact sheet on driving after taking cannabis and CBD oil here.

How Long After Taking CBD Oil Can You Drive?

Medical cannabis is relatively new in Australia, and people are rushing to figure out the different types of CBD oil so that they can categorise each one.

How long should you wait after taking CBD oil before you can drive? If you have pure CBD isolate, then you can legally drive immediately after taking CBD oil. If you have had CBD full-spectrum that includes THC, then you may need to wait for hours or even days before you can drive.

Why would you need to wait days after taking CBD oil to drive again in Australia?

Australia’s Drug testing searches for alcohol, marijuana and other substances. What drug tests really look for is the THC found in marijuana, and it can stay in your system for days.

Whether its hours or days depends on how much THC you consumed.

Be safe knowing that it’s safe to drive after taking CBD oil, so you don’t have to wait for hours or days. Be sure to check whether or not your CBD oil medication has THC in it.

Side Effects Of Taking CBD: Does It Impair Drivers?

There are multiple reported side effects that may impair your ability to drive after taking CBD oil.

The possible side effects of CBD that may negatively affect driving include:

  • drowsiness
  • low blood pressure
  • light-headed (dizziness)

Taking a larger dosage of CBD oil may cause more drowsiness, fatigue, and an overall sedative-like effect.

Smaller dosages of CBD generally boost your mood and alertness.

Most doctors in Australia recommend starting with lower dosages of CBD oil and to only drive after you have become accustomed to the effects of medicinal cannabis.

The majority of driving issues caused after taking CBD oil is a placebo effect, as you may not be used to the effects and are more nervous than usual.

Marijuana significantly impairs judgement, motor coordination and overall negatively effects your ability to drive. CBD Oil, however, is a safe non-intoxicating marijuana extract that does not adversely affect your ability to drive.

What Is In CBD Oil? Are There Different Types Of CBD Oils?

Whether its cannabidiol (CBD) oil or other CBD medical products, what else is inside that may affect your ability to drive?

The CBD compound by itself is non-intoxicating, but there are medicinal CBD oils that include potentially intoxicating compounds.

There are three main types of CBD extracts that are prescribed to patients in Australia:

  • CBD isolate
  • full-spectrum CBD
  • broad-spectrum CBD

The safest option is the CBD isolate, as this is pure CBD concentrate without any other potentially intoxicating compounds.

Full-spectrum CBD is the most natural extraction from the cannabis plant, but this includes a wide variety of other compounds, including THC. This is not recommended for driving.

The broad-spectrum CBD is the same as the full-spectrum, except for the THC. They filter out the THC during the production process to create a natural CBD oil without the main THC intoxicating effects.

Always consult with your doctor to find a form of CBD oil that’s safest for you to drive with, while not limiting its ability to treat your medical condition.

The Effects of Cannabis and Alcohol when driving

One of the controversies around legalising cannabis (marijuana) in Australia is that it will cause more traffic accidents on the road while drivers are “high” on weed.

What is the difference between cannabis and alcohol when driving in Australia?

Is it more dangerous to drive high, under the influence of marijuana, or does alcohol impair your driving more?

Alcohol greatly impairs your ability to drive effectively and increases the risk for accidents.

Alcohol at 0.75 g/kg (roughly four standard drinks) causes high levels of impairment in:

  • psychomotor performance
  • short-term memory
  • reaction time
  • hazard perception
  • concentration
  • hand-to-eye coordination

There are many misconceptions with the use of marijuana and how it affects people. But studies have shown that driving after a moderate dose of marijuana impairs driving performance.

It affects alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. At a glance, it would seem that both alcohol and Cannabis will have similar effects that increase the dangers of driving.

The main difference is Cannabis lasts between 1-3 hours and Australians who use Cannabis in moderation use it once or twice a month vs alcohol two or four times a week.

Cannabis and Driving The Government Facts (FactSheet)

Since CBD had become legal in 2016, the laws and government regulations around cannabis have been both confusing and contradictory.

Cannabis is a plant and weed, marijuana, “grass”, “dope”, THC, CBD, CBN are either different names for the plant or concentrated extracts from the plant.

The good news is that the government has released its official stance on cannabis and driving through the StreetSmarts organisation.

“Driving whilst under the influence of cannabis is dangerous. Cannabis can affect your judgement, vision, coordination and reflexes – all of which increase your risk of having a crash.” StreetSmarts Initiative

Through research and studies, the government has come up with a list of facts that have determined the risks involved in driving under the influence of marijuana (THC and CBD).

THC is the primary cannabis ingredient that negatively affects your ability to drive in Australia. Symptoms include:

  • short attention span
  • slow reaction time
  • inability to concentrate
  • poor judgement and decision making

Like alcohol, the amount of marijuana consumed is directly related to its negative effects on your ability to drive.

CBD oil does not affect your ability to drive, but everyone is different, so if you are feeling drowsy, tired or any other symptoms that makes you second think about driving, then be sure to wait 1-2 hours before getting behind the wheel of your car.

You can also read the government’s factsheet for cannabis and driving here.

Government FAQs Around Cannabis and Driving

A great way to understand the relationship between cannabis (CBD oil and THC oil) use and driving is through questions and answers.

Question: Can I drive after taking legal, medical cannabis (marijuana) that has been prescribed to me by a doctor?
Answer: Like with any schedule 4 or 8 drug that is quite strong, you should not drive if it negatively affects your ability to drive. It is an offence to drive with THC in your system.

Question: Can I drive after taking medical marijuana if I feel safe and confident?
Answer: Whether it’s prescription or recreational marijuana, it can be as dangerous drink driving. It may affect your judgment and decision making that could lead to an accident. Because of this, you may not be able to accurately judge at that time whether or not you are capable of driving after taking CBD and THC oil.

Question: How can I plan ahead to stay safe after taking cannabis products like CBD and THC oil?
Answer: Plan ahead like you would if you were drinking. Always have a designated driver and avoid getting behind the wheel if your CBD oil or cannabis medicine has THC in it. Public transport, uber, taxis are all safe alternatives when you are under the influence of THC.

Question: Do Australian police drug test for cannabis (THC and CBD) in drivers?
Answer: Police test for more than alcohol. Random drug tests can check for marijuana (THC) in your system. Whether you are in the city or the country, the police may conduct roadside drug tests that detect cannabis (THC) in your saliva or blood. If you are driving and caught with THC in your system, this can result in a drug driving charge.

Question: Can I avoid a drug driving charge if I have a medical certificate (prescription) for medicinal marijuana?
Answer: Whether or not the cannabis medicine is prescribed, if you are caught with THC in your system, you cannot use a valid prescription as a defence against a drug-driving charge in Australia. It is an offence to have THC in your system at the time of a drug-test when behind the wheel.

Question: How long should I wait after taking medicinal cannabis (CBD and THC) products?
Answer: How long does THC remain in your system is not currently known. It depends on the person, the amount is taken and how you took it. Eating cannabis will stay in your system longer than smoking it. An estimated 3-6 hours after taking CBD and THC oil and it will be out of your system. To be safe, most patients are recommended to wait up to 24 hours after taking CBD oil with THC before driving. Consult with your doctor for a more accurate duration tailored to your situation.

Question: What happens if I am involved in a car (motor vehicle) crash after taking cannabis (CBD & THC)?
Answer: Depending on your state, after drivers are involved in a car crash that results or injury or death, they are required to provide a blood sample to the police. Your blood is tested for alcohol and drugs, including marijuana (THC). Having THC in your system at the time of a car accident (crash) may be used against you.

Want to find out more information about driving and cannabis from the government? Here is a state by state guide from official government websites:

Conclusion: Is It Safe To Drive On CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is extracted from the cannabis plant for medicinal and therapeutic applications.

Cannabis, in its original form, has psychoactive and intoxicating effects that impair your ability to drive.

CBD, however, is a cannabis compound without any psychoactive or intoxicating effects.

CBD can alter your state of mind by boosting your alertness, and it can also cause a relaxing and calming effect.

It is legal and generally safe to drive after taking CBD oil that does not include any psychoactive cannabis compounds.

The most common CBD oil without psychoactive compounds is the CBD isolate and the broad-spectrum CBD oil.

The effects of CBD is different for everyone, so it is best to consult with your doctor to find the most suitable medical treatment.

As cannabis is the more widely used illicit drug in Australia, its important to remember that there is no legal limit when it comes to drugs and driving.

So educating yourself on the drug use statistics, safe use of CBD oil while driving and avoiding THC is an important safe step to keeping our roads safe.

James King

James is an experienced writer and legal cannabis advocate in Australia. He answers all the questions about business, legalisation and medicinal cannabis.

Disclaimer: Cannabis Place are not doctors and we recommend consulting health professionals for accurate information. This site may contain information regarding drugs. This content is designed for an 18+ audience. Click here for our full disclaimer

CBD is the most popular medicinal cannabis, but does it affect your ability to drive in Australia? Learn about cannabidiol (CBD) and safe driving in Australia.

Is it safe to drive on CBD? Scientists are worried about 1 side effect

The FDA cautions weary travelers about driving on CBD.

The world of CBD is expanding. Now that it comes in special edition Carls Jr. Burgers, gummies, seltzers, and sports products, evangelists behind the now-famous cannabinoid are finding uses for it in almost any situation: from post-workout relaxation to a mid-afternoon productivity jolt. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has hinted that there are some places that CBD’s effects may not translate well — starting with behind the wheel of your car, even if it can’t even get you high.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical that’s responsible for marijuana’s characteristic high. Though cannabidiol (CBD) is also an active ingredient of cannabis, its effects on the brain and body are far different, raging from anti-epileptic qualities to potential anti-anxiety effects.

It’s increasingly obvious that THC and driving don’t mix: A 2018 research letter published in Jama Internal Medicine revealed that “holiday” 4/20 was linked to a 12 percent increase in fatal car crashes (though that study wasn’t able to control for potential alcohol use). But even among sober drivers, a January 2020 study linked chronic THC use to impaired driving skills — especially in teens who started smoking weed before the age of 16.

How CBD affects driving though, is more of an open question, going by a press release issued by the FDA in December 2019, aimed at weary holiday travelers. The agency cautioned that drivers should “use caution if planning on operating a motor vehicle after consuming any CBD products.” That warning was based on the assertion that CBD can cause drowsiness, sedation, or lethargy, the release states.

There are, for now, very few studies investigating how CBD may impact driving. However, Thomas Arkwell, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sydney, did investigate the relationship between CBD, THC, and driving in a 2019 paper published in the journal Psychopharmacology. He tells Inverse that CBD use is unlikely to impair driving, but scientists are still examining its effects, because “we don’t know for sure.”

“There is some evidence to suggests that CBD may cause mild sedation at high doses, and this could translate into subtle driving impairment,” Arkell says.

The science of drowsy driving

The concern over CBD’s effects on driving performance has little to do with its status as a cannabinoid. Instead, the concern links back to the extract’s proposed mild sedative effect. That effect has anecdotal backing (about 10 percent of Americans who reported trying CBD used it to try to improve sleep, a 2019 Consumer Reports survey notes). That sedative effect is also noted in several previous studies — but, Arkell notes, those were only documented when it was taken in high doses.

In contrast to the sparse research on CBD and driving, the research on well-known drowsy drugs, like sleep aids, and their effects on driving performance are clear. Take one 2015 review published in The American Journal of Public Health. That study analyzed the collision records of 404,171 adults who reported using trazodone (an anti-depressant), temazepam (a prescription sleep-aid) and zolpidem (usually sold as Ambien). The use of any of those three drugs increased the chances of a car accident, but the results were particularly striking for Ambien users.

Ambien-users risk of accident doubled compared to people who didn’t use the drug. The authors likened the impairment to having a blood alcohol level of between .06% and .11% percent — close to or over the legal limit to drive.

That said, there are big differences between a drug like Ambien, which is intended to knock you out at night and CBD, where the sedative effects, if seen at all, are often described as mild. Still, even non-drug induced drowsy driving is a major concern for regulatory agencies like the CDC.

The National Highway Traffic Association notes that 795 people died as a result of drowsy driving during 2017, and the CDC estimates that lack of sleep and driving alone was responsible for 72,000 injuries in 2013.

“We will have the answer to this very soon!”

Even a minor connection between CBD and drowsiness, says Arkell, is enough to justify looking into whether CBD might be on thing that makes you just a little bit less alert while on the road. That’s the direction his research is currently taking, though there’s not a clear answer yet.

“We are also nearing the end of an on-road driving study which is looking at the effects of THC and CBD, both alone and in combination, on real-world driving performance,” Arkell says. “So we will have the answer to this very soon!”

Myths about CBD and driving

If they exist, CBD’s effects on driving are likely subtle. Still, Arkell explains that one major myth about CBD and driving endures: the idea that CBD can actually counteract THC’s known negative effects. It’s true that research suggests that CBD can help offset the anxiety-inducing effects of THC. But Arkell is concerned that this research may be being mistranslated.

“There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about how CBD can modulate the effects of THC, and I worry that this information might be passed on to unsuspecting medical cannabis patients and consumers,” he says.

“There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about how CBD can modulate the effects of THC.”

Luckily, Arkell’s research, which involved a simulated driving test and some THC and CBD-laced vapes, provides some clarification.

In his study, 14 participants vaped 125 milligrams of liquid that was either THC-heavy or equal parts CBD and THC. Then, each participant played a simulated driving game where they had to follow GPS instructions on highway or rural roads. When participants vaped both THC and CBD in equal concentrations, they tended to swerve more during their driving tests and reported feeling impaired up to four hours later.

“Our research suggests that CBD does not reduce the impairing effects of THC, at least with respect to driving, so it’s important that people are aware of this and can make their own decisions accordingly,” Arkell adds.

Importantly, this study didn’t include a CBD-only condition, which the authors say was because vaping CBD alone is “uncommon in the real world” (though this is likely changing). However, the team did find that when CBD and THC were administered in equal doses there were higher traces of THC in the participant’s blood compared to when they got THC alone, suggesting that the interplay between CBD, THC, and driving could be of concern going forward.

Still, the kind of CBD that we might ingest and think nothing about — like seltzer or a gummy — probably doesn’t help your performance on the road (especially if you’re already impaired). As far as the consequences of CBD use and driving go, if they’re out there, ongoing work is looking to illuminate them.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about being drowsy on the road, a good night’s sleep is probably the best place to start.

The FDA cautions weary travelers about driving on CBD.