Cannabis and driving With anything related to driving, Dutch law is merciless. Regardless of whether you are fit to drive or not, the law dictates that if you have THC in your blood, you will pay. Why this does not actually help road safety is explained in an exclusive multi-part series from the Cannabis News Network. In Part 3, the focus is on how the new law came about.
Since 1 July 2017, police have been testing drivers not only for alcohol but also for other substances such as amphetamine, cocaine and cannabis. Anyone who is over a given limit will face sanctions. Something that sounds sensible in theory turns out in practice to be a damp squib. But first let us take a look back.
In the past, the situation was that if there was any suspicion of drug use, the police would question the driver. Drivers who admitted consumption had to hand over their driving licence, which was sent to the Dutch Driving Licence Authority, the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (CBR). This was the start of a bureaucratic nightmare.
Why the new legislation is nonsense
Since last year, the police have been using mobile saliva test kits. If the result is positive, then a blood test is required. Recently tables have been created for cannabis that assign a specific level of punishment to a specific level of cannabis in the blood. This is similar to alcohol. But that is where the problem starts.
The effect of cannabis is different from that of alcohol. Whether someone has THC in their blood or not is no indication of whether they are capable of driving. It is quite possible for someone to smoke a joint in the evening and still have an excessive level of THC in their blood the next morning. The law discriminates especially against people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Experts criticise the THC thresholds applied. They also regret that some other substances are not even covered by the legislation. For example, benzodiazepines like Valium are known for their strong narcotic effect.
Politicians like simple solutions
When defining the THC threshold, the Ministry of Justice and Security based its approach on a study by Dr Franjo Grotenhermen. This doctor later clearly criticised the way the legislation was enacted. He said that it is impossible to define a THC value that distinguishes those who are fit to drive from those who are not.
So how did the current, often criticised law come about? “Politicians like simple solutions,” said Dr Grotenhermen in an interview with Cannabis News Network. The current legislation in the Netherlands seems to be a prime example of what happens when dogmatic and populist solutions become reality – a dangerous reality, with far-reaching consequences for those affected.
In the fourth article in this series, Cannabis News Network accompanies Shiva Spaarenberg, who learns at first hand why the subject of CBR and cannabis still causes so much irritation.