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Differences in Cannabis Impairment and its Measurement Due to Route of Administration

Award Information

Award #
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Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $1,209,914)

As submitted by the proposer: Current laws regarding cannabis impairment and Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) due to cannabis use are either difficult to prosecute or controversial. Currently, most local law enforcement use a combination of biological and behavioral assessments administered by drug recognition experts (DREs) and blood THC levels, with cutoffs ranging from 1 to 5 ng/mL, to judge cases of suspected DUID involving cannabis. However, the behavioral assessments have not been explicitly developed to be sensitive for detecting acute intoxication from cannabis, and there are significant limitations to the use of blood THC levels as a proxy for acute intoxication. Also, though smoking remains the most common route of cannabis administration, cannabis is increasingly available in a wide array of “edibles” intended for oral ingestion and there has been a substantial increase in the use of vaporizers to inhale cannabis products. The pharmacokinetics and associated pharmacodynamics of cannabis administered via vaporization and oral consumption are currently not well understood, and need to be better defined to evaluate methods of determining whether or not an individual under the influence of cannabis is impaired. We propose to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of acute dose effects for cannabis administered via vaporization and oral administration. This will be achieved using a combination of behavioral/performance evaluations and forensic toxicology testing (blood, urine, and oral fluid) following controlled administration of known doses of cannabis. We will correlate blood, urine, and oral fluid concentrations of an expanded cannabinoid panel for individuals exposed to both routes of administration. We will also use non-targeted analytical methods to determine new candidate markers of cannabis use that track with level of impairment, as determined by subjective drug effect reporting, objective performance testing, and subjective DRE assessments. Additionally, we will work with an experienced DRE trainer to evaluate the sensitivity of existing DRE assessments and develop and test new assessments targeted for cannabis sensitivity. Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law. ca/ncf
Date Created: September 16, 2016