Since March last year roughly 13,000 people have been prescribed cannabis by their doctors in Germany under a new law which legalized the drug for people suffering from chronic pain.
There are no figures available on how many of these people also drive. What is clear though is that they are free to drive if they want to, regardless of how much cannabis they have just smoked. According to the law, it is up to the patients themselves to decide if they trust themselves to drive.
This is in stark contrast to people who smoke cannabis recreationally. They risk losing their licence if they are caught smoking a joint, even if they are nowhere near their car.
From a toxicological point of view it makes no difference whether one got their supply from the local pharmacy or from a dealer, says Prof. Thomas Daldrup, a toxicologist at the University of Düsseldorf.
Daldrup will be speaking at a conference this week organized by the German Traffic Assembly (VGT) on the theme “cannabis consumption and driving.”
The German Council for Road Safety (DVR) complains that German lawmakers never even considered the role of road safety when they passed the law on medical marijuana.
Herbert Engelmohr, from the car club AvD, also complains that drivers should not be the ones who get to decide if they are fit to drive.
“Whoever sits behind a wheel should be sober,” he stated.
“What legislatures have allowed to happen here has in no way taken account of the safety of other drivers,” said Kay Nehm, head of the VGT.
The Accident Researchers for German Insurers (UDV) meanwhile, point to the fact that doctors can prescribe patients up to 100 grams of cannabis for 30 days, which is enough for 30 joints a day – a fairly substantial amount.
But the German Lawyers’ Association sees things differently. A spokesman made clear that cannabis should be treated like every other medicine.
“If doctors don’t believe that cannabis consumption does anything to reduce one’s capabilities to drive, then there is no reason to doubt a patient’s capability to drive,” the spokesman stated.
At the VGT conference, the experts will also discuss what quantity of illegal cannabis can be consumed before a user can be considered unfit to drive. German courts have not yet been able to come to a consensus on this question.
The German Hemp Association also commented before the conference. It stated that it sees it as discriminatory that, while one can only be punished for consuming alcohol when one drives, cannabis users can have their licence taken away even if they were not behind the wheel.