Recreation Implies Fun, Impairment is Serious

Mike Ezzell

Generally, people use marijuana for one of two reasons: medicinal benefits or recreational purposes. In many states today, it is legal to purchase and use marijuana. Texas allows cannabidiol (CBD) and low-THC products.

However, I feel it is unfortunate that we associate any drug capable of producing impairment with the term “recreational” because of the safety implications. When someone thinks of recreation or the term recreational, the idea that jumps into the mind is that we are going to have fun and certainly will not be put at undue risk.

Research shows that drugs of all kinds can and do produce negative effects. Drugs inhibit our ability to think straight, control our muscles, and be productive at work and safe behind the wheel. There is no exception in these findings for the use of marijuana.

When it comes to the task of driving, whether on or off the job, marijuana can impact drivers in a variety of ways:

  • Decision-making: A recent study showed that individuals with marijuana in their system felt they were OK to drive 30 minutes after use. However, when tested on a driving simulator, they performed as if impaired, marked by confusion and/or a series of poor decisions.
  • Proceeding in a straight line: Drivers in that same simulator test often weaved and had trouble remaining in their lanes, even 90 minutes after using marijuana.
  • Hand-eye-coordination: Test subjects were slower to react to events in their driving field.

Download and share the full report: Driving Performance and Cannabis Users’ Perception of Safety.

The sample-size research is clear. Marijuana can cause impairment and affect your coworkers in so many ways. Be aware that levels of impairment relating to use of marijuana are much more difficult to gauge than alcohol, which can be determined with a BAC test.

During these challenging times, we encourage you to reexamine your workplace policies and procedures. Train supervisors to recognize the signs and symptoms of impairment. Test employees working in safety-sensitive positions. Use free tools from the National Safety Council to create a safe environment for all. Get started here:

When we are involved in the driving task, it is important that nothing takes away from our ability to be alert and attentive to that task. 

Drive to arrive.

– Mike Ezzell is a program manager with the National Safety Council