Can You Drive Using CBD and Is it Legal To? Top 3 Risks

A common concern amongst those considering CBD or even cannabis medications in Australia is the risks involved in using them while driving. Knowing the dangers involved in taking any health product or medication is vital before taking it. Australia has stringent drug driving laws that prohibit any amount of THC from being present in a driver’s system, regardless of whether they are intoxicated. In contrast, CBD and other cannabinoids are permitted to be used when driving due to not causing motor skill reductions or intoxication. Risks can occur amongst those using CBD products when driving due to many containing THC or traces of it. It’s possible to accidentally ingest CBD, which exposes you to failing Roadside Drug Tests in Australia and lose your license. Learn the risks involved in using CBD or cannabis medications when driving in Australia so you can stay safe and avoid any legal problems.

Can You Drive After Taking CBD in Australia?

The risk that drivers encounter when taking CBD or any cannabis medications is potentially failing a Roadside Drug Test. These tests are performed by police at random across roads in Australia. They use saliva swab immunoassay testing measures to look for the presence of TH-COOH. After the liver breaks down THC in the body, it produces this metabolite, which indicates the individual has consumed THC. Due to THC being fat soluble and taking a long time to be cleared by the body, such tests can detect it for days or weeks after its ingestion. In theory, these tests should pose no risk for those using pure CBD products as they aren’t tested for. However, legal and driving risks may occur when individuals take CBD products that contain THC. This can happen in a few scenarios, which we’ll cover.

Is Driving on CBD Oil Legal?

CBD oil is legal to use when driving as long as it contains 0% THC. There is no regulation banning drivers from having CBD or cannabinoids like CBG, CBN or MEB in their system whilst on the road. Only the THC cannabinoid is illegal to have in your system when behind the wheel of a car in Australia. If you’re subject to Roadside Drug Testing (RDT), you should have no problems if you only use CBD oil, and you can guarantee it contains no THC. For example, very high-purity CBD isolate oil with 0% THC is generally safe for drivers to use. You won’t fail a drug test in these cases unless your CBD product is contaminated with THC. Using a full-spectrum CBD oil can lead to risks when driving due to it containing trace levels of THC. It is recommended to avoid these types of CBD products as they can cause minor amounts of THC to accumulate in your system, which will lead to RDT risks.

Does CBD Affect Your Driving Ability?

CBD does not affect driving abilities, reaction time or motor skills for most drivers. There can be some exceptions to this, though. While relatively rare, CBD is known to have some side effects that could impact your ability to drive. For example, it can cause drowsiness, lethargy, light-headedness or dizziness from blood pressure changes in some individuals. These issues are more likely to occur amongst new users of CBD or those with underlying health conditions. In addition, dosage plays a role. If you’re taking very high amounts of CBD or using high-strength products, the risk of side effects can increase when driving. 

Exercising caution and self-awareness is essential for those taking CBD and driving. If you’re feeling some form of side effect or believe CBD could affect your reaction times, it’s better to wait and let these pass before attempting to drive. Notably, CBD is not psychoactive or intoxicating, which means it doesn’t impair your cognition. For most users, it enables greater focus, mental energy and concentration, which could assist driving skills instead of reducing them.

Evidence for CBD’s Safety When Driving

Due to being derived from cannabis, initial concern regarding CBD existed in regards to its potential for motor skill impairment. Governments wanted to identify whether it posed a material risk or not amongst motorists in potentially impacting driving skills and increasing accident risk. Studies were subsequently funded to understand the relationship between CBD and motor impairment in more depth.

A Journal of Psychopharmacology study on 17 people investigated how CBD could alter driving skills and reaction time. Subjects were given CBD oil in one of three daily doses (150mg, 300mg, or 1500mg). A placebo group was established for comparison. Before and after taking their doses, participants completed tasks on a driving simulator. The tasks involved following safely behind another car and driving along highways and rural roads. Tests during the simulation measured how much people’s reaction speeds and motor control were affected by CBD. Participants took additional tests to measure their cognitive function, drug-induced impairment, and reaction time while driving. The researchers found that none of the CBD doses appeared to impair the participant’s driving ability or cognitive performance. It also didn’t induce subjective feelings of intoxication. 

Cannabis Medications With THC and Driving

Cannabis medications that contain THC are not safe to use if you’re driving. This is still true even if you are not intoxicated due to the length of time THC can remain in the body. You are placing yourself at risk of severe consequences if you are taking THC at any time and subsequently driving. Cannabis oil, medicines containing both CBD and THC, plus any full-spectrum CBD product, fits into this high-risk category for drivers. Whether you obtained these using a prescription or another means doesn’t matter. The law in Australia has a zero-tolerance policy for any amount of THC for drivers. If you’re taking one of these products regularly, seek alternative transport methods when transiting, like public transport or ride services, to avoid risk.

Is it Safe to Drive After Using Cannabis Medications?

Any cannabis medication containing THC is not safe whatsoever to drive on. This applies both when you’re intoxicated from the cannabinoid plus even after the effects of it subside. Even if THC does not impair you as a driver, you will still fail roadside drug tests if any is found in your system in Australia. THC is dangerous for driving due to its psychoactivity and intoxicating effects. It lowers reaction speeds, impairs driving decision-making, reduces cognition and raises impulsiveness. All these effects are detrimental and high risk if you’re piloting a vehicle. You are risking serious injury or death for yourself and other people if you use cannabis medication containing THC and subsequently drive. In addition, you will void any insurance coverage that protects you during an accident due to driving under the influence. The consequences are invariably not worth it.

How Long After Using Cannabis Can I Drive?

It is only safe to drive after using any cannabis medication containing THC once the cannabinoid’s metabolite called TH-COOH has been eliminated in the body. This guarantees that you won’t fail a roadside drug test when driving, in addition to ensuring THC’s effects on driving safety do not impair you. The amount of time it takes for TH-COOH to clear is variable and depends on how much THC you take, for how long, plus physiological factors like your body size or metabolism. Your body stores THC metabolites in its fat cells, which can remain in the body for weeks or even months in some cases for heavy cannabis users. Even if you haven’t used any cannabis products in weeks, you might still have trace levels of THC in your system, which can be detected in roadside drug tests. This risk increases the longer you have used products containing THC before the test, as well as the dosages consumed in each use.

Safety Precautions for Drivers Using CBD

The most straightforward way to prevent any risks when using CBD whilst driving is to avoid the consumption of any THC. Problematically, there are some scenarios where the potential to ‘accidentally’ consume THC exists. 

  • Use CBD Isolate: these products undergo additional processing during manufacturing to eliminate quantities of other cannabinoids such as THC. While still effective, isolate CBD oil has the added advantage of providing peace of mind that you aren’t consuming THC with your CBD. 
  • Avoid full-spectrum CBD: in Australia, full-spectrum CBD products can contain up to 0.3% THC, which poses a real risk for drivers. In addition, they contain quantities of THCA, a non-psychoactive minor cannabinoid that can cross-react with drug tests and present as a fail for THC. Using full-spectrum CBD over time can cause these cannabinoids to accumulate in your body’s fat and substantially increase your risk of failing an RDT, even if you don’t feel impaired at all.
  • Get a Certificate of Analysis: seeking a 3rd party lab’s testing results for a particular CBD product is a good idea to identify whether it contains any THC. These are impartial and high-accuracy analyses of the product’s cannabinoid content, providing you with insight into how much THC it may have and the risk it poses to your driving.
  • Test yourself for THC: if you suspect you’ve consumed THC as a driver, an excellent way to check is to purchase a high-accuracy drug testing kit. In particular, look to buy the saliva tests used by police so you can ensure the testing standard aligns with what is used on roads in Australia. Drug testing yourself before driving helps avoid any guesswork involved in knowing what your risk exposure is in getting behind the wheel.
  • Avoid cheap or low-quality CBD products: products that are cheaply made and don’t prioritise quality control are risky to use because of their potential to contain THC. This can occur accidentally through incidental contamination during production, from poor extraction and filtration processes, or if the product is mislabelled. If you’re a driver, don’t make price a deciding factor when buying CBD in Australia. Opt for quality products you can confirm are reputable, safe and won’t contain THC.

A final tip is to use your judgment and caution when taking CBD if you drive. Don’t get behind the wheel if you feel drowsiness or sleepy. Similarly, if you believe you could have THC in your system for any reason, don’t risk it. Getting caught by a roadside drug test will mean you could lose your driver’s license, be fined, jailed or have your car impounded. It’s considered driving under the influence, similar to drunk driving in the eyes of the law. As a driver, if you injure anyone or cause an accident with THC in your body, the consequences for you are more significant. Any insurance you have will not apply, and potential charges against you can be upgraded to criminal. It’s best to prevent these situations from ever occurring. 

FAQs

Can You Drive After Taking CBD Oil in Australia?

In Australia, the legality and regulations surrounding the use of CBD, including driving after taking CBD oil, are subject to specific state laws and can be influenced by the presence of THC in the product. CBD itself is not illegal to use when driving as it is non-psychoactive and doesn’t impact motor skills. The presence of any THC in a driver’s system, however, is against the law and punishable with fines, loss of license or jail. Issues can occur when taking CBD oil, which contains THC or trace levels of it. Often, this is the case with full-spectrum CBD, which is less refined and has up to 0.3% THC content, making it risky to use for drivers. Opting for high purity, CBD isolate oil with 0% THC is a better choice to minimise risk, alongside sourcing reputable, trustworthy products.

Does CBD Interfere with Driving?

CBD, on its own, is not known to cause significant impairment or interfere with driving abilities. In some users, it may cause drowsiness or lethargy, which can have some influence on driving skills. If you are experiencing any side effects from CBD, it’s best to avoid driving until they pass. CBD is non-psychoactive and does not cause reductions in motor function associated with risks to driving. 
However, it’s essential to consider the potential effects of other components in CBD products, especially if they contain trace amounts of THC. THC can impact driving and cause risks on the road, plus it is illegal to have it in your system while driving in Australia. CBD users should be aware of the product’s cannabinoid content, adhere to recommended dosages and allow sufficient time between CBD consumption and driving. If you are unclear about the effects of a particular CBD product on your ability to drive, check with your doctor for advice.

How Long After Using Cannabis Can I Drive?

The timeframe for determining when it is safe to drive after using cannabis depends on several factors, including dosage, method of consumption, THC concentration, individual tolerance, usage frequency and metabolism. Roadside drug screens in Australia for drivers check for the presence of the TH-COOH metabolite of THC in saliva swabs. Any amount of the metabolite found in a driver’s system is viewed as driving under the influence based on current Australian regulations, even if a driver is not intoxicated. The only way to be safe after using cannabis is to wait for the metabolite to be fully cleared out of the body. In chronic users of cannabis, this can take weeks because of THC’s fat solubility, making it risky for drivers. Purchasing a ‘police standard’ drug test and testing yourself is the only effective way to ensure you will pass a roadside drug test after taking THC. Regulations vary by state in Australia, so confirm your local laws if you’re a driver.

Conclusion

For drivers in Australia, using CBD or other cannabis medications can pose several legal and safety risks. These risks aren’t posed by CBD but rather by THC, which can reduce your driving abilities. For those using cannabis medicines that have THC in them, driving is not an option. You risk significant fines, loss of license and other consequences if you fail a roadside drug test or get into an accident. Taking CBD on its own is safe, but this can be challenging due to many CBD products containing amounts of THC. To avoid this, look for isolate CBD, which has been lab-tested, contains 0% THC and is reputable, so you have assurance you’re not ingesting any THC. When in doubt, drug test yourself to confirm you’re clear of THC metabolites if you need to drive.