Alberta researchers are trying to figure out how long you need to abstain from weed before getting behind the wheel.
The effects of alcohol on driving are easily measured but roadside testing for marijuana is still in the development phase.
With the federal government planning to legalize cannabis by July, researchers in Edmonton are aiming to study the effects of marijuana on users.
“So how much can you consume? Could you consume a gram in an hour and then wait an hour and drive? We don’t know the answer to that,” said Dr. Scot Purdon from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta.
Purdon is leading the study that will examine the effects of marijuana on users cognitive functions such as fine motor skills, attention span, distractibility and verbal learning.
He said he hopes they’ll “be able to offer very clear guidance on how long you should be abstinent before the effects have cleared sufficient to operate a motor vehicle.”
There is a lack of research on how THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, affects the brain, he said.
The effects of the drug can vary widely from person to person.
“We don’t know is how long it takes to return to normal for you,” said Purdon. “Do you have all of your memory capacity back, all your motor skills back within an hour or two hours of last use? Or does it take a week? Could it take even a month?”
He said the best evidence right now shows some verbal learning impairments associated with cannabis seem to persist for up to seven days after use.
“And that’s for heavy use of a fairly intense product.” he said.
Purdon said he and his co-investigators — Dr. Cameron Wild from the University of Alberta and Dr. Alexander Penney at MacEwan University — are also examining how the duration and frequency of use, and the age of the user, may contribute to impairment levels.
The study will focus on young adults who describe themselves as heavy users.
Currently, there isn’t enough evidence to help medical professionals advise young people of a safe minimum age to use marijuana, he said. “We don’t have a whole lot of data to back up our statements that way.”
The research could also have implications for students and people working in the trades, or in jobs that require the retention of verbal information, Purdon said.
“Of course it will diminish productivity in whatever job you do — if the effects are residual, if they last,” he said. “Again, we don’t really know for sure. And that’s unfortunate.”
The researchers began recruiting study participants three months ago. Researchers still need more than 80 heavy pot users to participate in the study, which is already underway in a lab at MacEwan.
Participants spend about two hours answering questions around mood, history and substance abuse.
Purdon expects to be finished in the next six to nine months but said that will depend on recruitment of participants.
Those interested in participating can call 780-342-5294.
The project is funded by a $35,000 competitive grant sponsored by the the U of A and the University of Calgary. It is administered through the Strategic Clinical Network connected to Alberta Health Services.
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Edmonton Alberta News Headlines
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Edmonton /ˈɛdməntən/ (About this sound listen) is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta’s central region. The city anchors the north end of what Statistics Canada defines as the “Calgary–Edmonton Corridor”.
The city had a population of 932,546 in 2016, making it Alberta’s second-largest city and Canada’s fifth-largest municipality. Also in 2016, Edmonton had a metropolitan population of 1,321,426, making it the sixth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada. Edmonton is North America’s northernmost city that has a metropolitan population over one million. A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.
Edmonton’s historic growth has been facilitated through the absorption of five adjacent urban municipalities (Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton, Beverly and Jasper Place) and a series of annexations ending in 1982.[ Known as the “Gateway to the North”, the city is a staging point for large-scale oil sands projects occurring in northern Alberta and large-scale diamond mining operations in the Northwest Territories.
Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname “Canada’s Festival City”. It is home to North America’s largest mall, West Edmonton Mall (the world’s largest mall from 1981 until 2004), and Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum.
Further information: History of Edmonton and Timeline of Edmonton history
The earliest known inhabitants settled in the area that is now Edmonton around 3,000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC, when an ice-free corridor opened as the last glacial period ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.
In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area. His expeditions across the Canadian Prairies were mainly to seek contact with the aboriginal population for establishing the fur trade, as competition was fierce between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. By 1795, Fort Edmonton was established on the river’s north bank as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The new fort’s name was suggested by John Peter Pruden after Edmonton, London, the home town of both the HBC deputy governor Sir James Winter Lake, and Pruden.
In 1876, Treaty 6, which includes what is now Edmonton, was signed between the Aboriginal peoples in Canada (or First Nations) and Queen Victoria as Queen of Canada, as part of the Numbered Treaties of Canada. The agreement includes the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River. The area covered by the treaty represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to southern Alberta in 1885 helped the Edmonton economy, and the 1891 building of the Calgary and Edmonton (C&E) Railway resulted in the emergence of a railway townsite (South Edmonton/Strathcona) on the river’s south side, across from Edmonton. The arrival of the CPR and the C&E Railway helped bring settlers and entrepreneurs from eastern Canada, Europe, U.S. and other parts of the world. The Edmonton area’s fertile soil and cheap land attracted settlers, further establishing Edmonton as a major regional commercial and agricultural centre. Some people participating in the Klondike Gold Rush passed through South Edmonton/Strathcona in 1897. Strathcona was North America’s northernmost railway point, but travel to the Klondike was still very difficult for the “Klondikers”, and a majority of them took a steamship north to the Yukon from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jasper Avenue, ca. 1907
Incorporated as a town in 1892 with a population of 700 and then as a city in 1904 with a population of 8,350, Edmonton became the capital of Alberta when the province was formed a year later, on September 1, 1905. In November 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) arrived in Edmonton, accelerating growth.
During the early 1900s, Edmonton’s rapid growth led to speculation in real estate. In 1912, Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River; as a result, the city extended south of the North Saskatchewan River for the first time.
Just prior to World War I, the boom ended, and the city’s population declined from more than 72,000 in 1914 to less than 54,000 only two years later. Many impoverished families moved to subsistence farms outside the city, while others fled to greener pastures in other provinces. Recruitment to the Canadian army during the war also contributed to the drop in population. Afterwards, the city slowly recovered in population and economy during the 1920s and 1930s and took off again during and after World War II.
The Edmonton City Centre Airport opened in 1929, becoming Canada’s first licensed airfield.Originally named Blatchford Field in honour of former mayor Kenny Blatchford, pioneering aviators such as Wilfrid R. “Wop” May and Max Ward used Blatchford Field as a major base for distributing mail, food, and medicine to Northern Canada; hence Edmonton’s emergence as the “Gateway to the North”. World War II saw Edmonton become a major base for the construction of the Alaska Highway and the Northwest Staging Route.
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