7 ways drivers in legal states avoid driving high

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

Recreational cannabis is now legal in 15 states (plus Washington, D.C.). And even though cannabis has been legal in some of these states, like Washington and Colorado, for almost 10 years, there still aren’t clear guidelines for drivers and tourists about when it’s safe to get behind the wheel. This means that a lot of people decide for themselves whether they can drive or not. 

In a recent study, The Zebra found that 51% of drivers in legal states decide if they're going to drive after using cannabis based on how they feel, and 47% of drivers said they noticed at least one driving impairment after using cannabis, which lines up with what the experts tell us. The CDC claims that cannabis can impair a person’s motor skills, cognitive function and other driving abilities. 

More than half of the drivers we talked to said that they do worry about how cannabis affects their driving, and 74% of respondents told us that they actually chose an alternative to driving high this past year. What did they do instead? These are the top seven ways drivers in legal states have prevented themselves from driving under the influence of cannabis. 

7. Ordered cannabis delivery

12% of the drivers we surveyed said they’ll order cannabis delivery to refill their stash if they’re already under the influence. Recreational states have a variety of laws when it comes to cannabis delivery. For example, states like Oregon, California and Nevada allow consumers to order cannabis delivery to their homes. Other states, like Alaska, don’t allow businesses to deliver cannabis to consumers. 

6. Used public transportation

Some drivers avoid driving by taking a bus, taxi or train wherever they need to go while under the influence. 17% of our survey respondents told us they rely on their city’s mass transit to avoid driving high. 

5. Called or video chatted friends and family 

About 21% of drivers call or video chat with friends and family instead of meeting in-person to avoid getting behind the wheel after cannabis use. It should be noted that we conducted this survey in 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic was still going strong, and video chats/phone calls were already popular among the masses. 

4. Used a rideshare app 

With the popularity of rideshare apps, you probably aren’t shocked to see that more drivers (23%) opt for Uber or Lyft than their city’s public transportation options. Rideshare companies are clearly aware of their role in keeping high drivers off the road. In 2017, Lyft partnered with Colorado’s Department of Transportation to warn people about the dangers of driving high. The rideshare company wrapped 17 cars in green and put the phrase “Plan a ride before you’re high” on the vehicles. 

3. Walked or biked

Some drivers (25%) opt to walk or bike to wherever they want to go while high rather than take public transportation or use a rideshare app. Is biking safer than driving? One study says yes. Researchers made 14 participants bike through an obstacle course while sober and then after smoking one, two and three joints. After observing their performance, the researchers concluded that “a defined THC concentration that leads to an inability to ride a bicycle cannot be presented. The test subjects showed only slight distinctive features that can be documented using a medical test routinely run for persons under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

2. Got a ride from friends or family 

It seems like getting someone else to drive them around, whether it’s a bus driver, an Uber driver or a friend, is extremely popular among cannabis users. About 38% of drivers said they’ll hitch a ride with a friend or family member if they are under the influence. 

1.Ordered food delivery 

Is this surprising? When the munchies kick in, 60% of drivers said they’ll order food delivery. 29% prefer food delivery from a restaurant, while 31% prefer using a food delivery app like Grubhub or DoorDash to get their meal. 

While using one of these alternative methods to stay off the road may benefit the driver and others on the road, it’s clear that people are seeking more information about what’s okay when it comes to cannabis and driving. Only 35% of the drivers in legal states said they are very likely to know their state’s laws regarding cannabis and driving, and 60% of drivers want the U.S. federal government to create national laws and guidelines to address driving and safe cannabis use. It’s unclear whether these drivers are asking for federal legalization or think the federal government is more capable of broadly setting standards for everyone across the U.S. to follow. 

To learn more about drivers’ habits in legal states, check out our full report here