CBD & Driving: Is it Safe & Legal?

CBD oil is considered a safe option [1, 2] over most other medications – natural, barely any side effects, cheaper compared to many prescription drugs. 

Over recent years, CBD products have proved to be an excellent wellness supplement. Unlike marijuana, CBD oil does not create euphoria or mind-altering effects [3]. In other words, there is no fear of getting “high” on CBD oil. That is because CBD oil generally comprises mostly CBD (Cannabidiol) and almost no THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of the cannabis – the same plants that contain CBD).

However, we do know CBD can cause drowsiness [4, 5], especially when you take it later in the evening or use it in high enough doses. 

So, is it safe to use CBD before driving? Will CBD cause impairment while driving? Will a driver be pulled over for “driving under influence” by the cops? These are some of the questions that have sent the minds of users in a tizzy.  

In this article, we have tried to answer these very questions. 


CBD oil has a multitude of therapeutic advantages. People from across the world have benefitted from its use [6], in different forms and for different purposes. However, one should use any chemical compound responsibly, especially when they are putting it into their body. 


CBD has quite a few benefits, like:

  • Reducing both acute and chronic pain
  • Alleviating inflammation
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Managing depression and otherwise alleviating mood 
  • Curbing nausea/preventing vomiting tendencies
  • Inducing alertness & wakefulness 
  • Promoting proper sleep & fighting sleep disorders, like insomnia [5]
  • Calming stomach issues
  • Calming seizures 
  • Combatting heart issues, lowering blood pressure, etc. 
  • Fighting stroke

For users intending to use CBD oil to control their feelings of nausea or anxiety while driving, it can be a good thing. Besides, for people already suffering from some kind of pain, inflammation, seizures [7] or other issues with the stomach or heart, using CBD before driving can be a good thing. But there’s a flipside!  

Before we get to that, did you notice that we have mentioned two points that seem in contradiction to each other one after the next in the above list? 

  • Inducing alertness & wakefulness
  • Promoting proper sleep & fighting sleep disorders, like insomnia

Yes, CBD has biphasic properties [8]. So, what does it mean for a driver who is using CBD? Does it keep him awake or put him to sleep? After all, for a person driving a car, falling asleep on his steering wheel isn’t an option! 

Now that we know what’s great about CBD oil, we also need to understand the risks of using CBD before/while driving… 

…And Flipside

CBD oil indeed helps in overcoming quite a few physical hindrances and constraints, including managing some very severe health conditions. But, restraint is necessary when operating heavy machinery or driving. 

Risk factors

  • It can relax the body and mind of the user to quite an extent. It may even cause drowsiness and sleepiness if taken at night or late in the evening. It may have a similar effect when taken in large enough doses (which is the dosage for overcoming insomnia). 
  • Taken in too high amounts can even lead to uneasiness in the stomach, and cause nausea instead of fighting it. 
  • The permissible limit of THC in CBD oil is 0.3%. If CBD oil is taken in high doses, the overall dose of THC that goes into the body also increases. Unless you know how your body reacts to THC, it may be unsafe and unwise to use it in high doses before driving. 
  • Not all brands are true to their word. The contents of their CBD oil may not always be as per claims. Any ingredient, other than CBD (and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids), terpenes, fatty acids, and the usual carrier oils, like hemp seed oil, MCT oil, olive oil, etc. can have adverse effects on the body, and in turn, impair our ability to drive with an alert mind. Additionally, we may also be allergic to some carrier oils that can cause queasiness during driving, especially if you’re prone to driving anxiety. 


CBD oil is legal across all 50 states of America, as long as the product contains zero THC or within the permissible limits of 0.3% by total weight. The same rule applies to driving a car under the influence of CBD oil. It’s legal. But, should you?

The low THC-content is usually not enough to give you a euphoric sensation. In fact, the CBD can counter the effect of the low THC level quite effectively, keeping you alert and focused while driving. However, vaping regular cannabis is not safe and the CBD in it can do little to counter the effects of THC – a potent psychoactive component of cannabis [9]

However, as we discussed earlier, it is possible for some products to illegally contain higher levels of THC, without your knowledge, mostly due to mislabeling and misrepresentation. Owing to its psychoactive properties, THC not only impairs your ability to drive but also exposes you to the possibility of being pulled over for driving under influence. 

Even if the CBD product you’re using conforms to the legal boundaries set by the federal government, there is still a possibility of experiencing some side effects, which although are usually well-tolerated and manageable under normal circumstances, may pose a serious threat to the physical health of a user while he is driving or operating heavy machinery.  

The usual side effects of sleepiness or drowsiness, which could be a good thing for someone suffering from insomnia, are only good if you’re safely tucked in bed. However, while driving your car that’s the last thing you’d want. 

This drowsiness is usually caused by CBD oil among some users when they up their dosage or take it later in the evening or night. While the effects may not be same for all, and not all doses have the same effect on all, you may do well to steer clear of changing your doses or from CBD altogether, if you generally sleep too relaxed after using it.

Again, given the differences in legalities in different states within the country, it is also unwise to carry or use CBD while driving your way across state borders. 

Traffic rules and DUI

Drowsiness will most certainly look and seem like inebriation, leading to reckless driving, reason enough to get pulled over for “driving under influence”. It can also turn out to have worse consequences, like meeting with an accident that could even lead to death or permanent paralysis. 

Even though the immediate side effect of a high dose of CBD may not seem severe in any way, driving after using it may lead to catastrophic results. 

It may also be interesting to users to know that legalization of CBD is quite a recent development, whereas traffic laws, irrespective of which state it is operational in, were set long ago when the use of cannabis in any form was illegal. 

Besides, any sane-minded law enforcement officer who spots a car swerving from one side of the road to another, even on an empty lane, would be obliged to flag down the driver for a closer inspection. On closer observation – the way you park your car or how you interact with the officer, anyone would notice that the driver is drowsy, and hence, unfit to drive. For a law enforcement officer, drowsiness would resemble intoxication. He may charge with a DUI. 

For you to be convicted under DUI laws, a blood test will be conducted. If your blood shows higher levels of THC than what is permitted in your state, then you will most definitely be charged under DUI. 

Parting Thoughts: Should you drive after using CBD?

Driving after using CBD is considered legal in the US, as the product doesn’t normally affect a person’s ability to drive. However, CBD’s effects differ from person to person. The dosage required to cause any side effects are also quite personal to each user. So, it’s wise to stay away from CBD unless and until a user is absolutely sure that it does not affect his ability to operate a machine like a car, when not only his life but the lives of his co-passengers and everyone else on the road, are at stake. 

If you must use CBD before driving to overcome your anxiety issues, nausea or pain (which are bad to have while driving, as they can take the focus of the driver away from the road), it is best to take a few precautions. 


  1. Buy only from a trusted vendor or online brand that makes its Certificates of Analysis (reports of third-party lab tests that conclusively prove that the product is genuine, potent and safe). 
  2. Try out a CBD product when you won’t be required to drive, so that you can be sure of how exactly your body would react to the new substance and how much is the right dose for you to stay sharp while driving.
  3. Keeping your doses small will ensure a heightened focus, an energy boost, and greater alertness, helping you drive better. So, even if you do need to drive after taking CBD or need to take CBD before driving (to assist you in driving better, for instance), take it in smaller doses. 
  4. In case, you feel uneasy while driving (under CBD’s influence), pull up along the side of the road and stop the car. Get some fresh air. In case you think you’d need medical assistance, make the call, without wasting any more time. 

Always remember, CBD reacts differently with different individuals [10]. While CBD is generally safe and is definitely non-psychoactive, you must be careful what you put into your body. 

CBD is after all a chemical compound [11, 12], and any chemical will have some adverse effects. You should also take into account that while driving needs a clear mind and your absolute attention, dosing yourself too high is risky. Besides, using CBD during late evening hours or at night, when your body is already tired or stressed out, is NOT AN OPTION. 



  1. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies; Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research; Jun 1, 2017; Kerstin Iffland and Franjo Grotenhermen; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/ 
  2. Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids; Surgical Neurology International; Apr 26, 2018; Joseph Maroon and Jeff Bost;  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/ 
  3. Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations; Molecules; May 20, 2018; Radmila Pavlovic, Giorgio Nenna, Lorenzo Calvi, Sara Panseri, Gigliola Borgonovo, Luca Giupponi, Giuseppe Cannazza, and Annamaria Giorgi; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6100014/ 
  4. Potential Effects of Cannabidiol as a Wake-Promoting Agent; Current Neuropharmacology; May 2014; Eric Murillo-Rodríguez, Andrea Sarro-Ramírez, Daniel Sánchez, Stephanie Mijangos-Moreno, Alma Tejeda-Padrón, Alwin Poot-Aké, Khalil Guzmán, Elda Pacheco-Pantoja, and Oscar Arias-Carrión; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4023456/ 
  5. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series; The Permanente Journal; Jan 7, 2019; Scott Shannon, MD, Nicole Lewis, ND, Heather Lee, PA-C, and Shannon Hughes, PhD; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/ 
  6. Striking lung cancer response to self-administration of cannabidiol: A case report and literature review; SAGE Open Medical Case Reports; Feb 21, 2019; Josep Sulé-Suso, Nick A Watson, Daniel G van Pittius, and Apurna Jegannathen; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6385325/ 
  7. Cannabidiol for Treatment of Childhood Epilepsy–A Cross-Sectional Survey; Frontiers in Neurology; Sep 7, 2018; Kerstin A Klotz, Andreas Schulze-Bonhage, Victoria San Antonio-Arce, and Julia Jacobs; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143823/ 
  8. Biphasic Effects of Cannabinoids in Anxiety Responses: CB1 and GABAB Receptors in the Balance of GABAergic and Glutamatergic Neurotransmission; Neuropsychopharmacology; Aug 1, 2012; Alejandro Aparisi Rey, Martin Purrio, Maria-Paz Viveros, and Beat Lutz; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3473327/ 
  9. Cannabidiol (CBD) content in vaporized cannabis does not prevent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-induced impairment of driving and cognition; Psychopharmacology (Berl); 2019 May 1; Arkell TR, Lintzeris N, Kevin RC, Ramaekers JG, Vandrey R, Irwin C, Haber PS, McGregor IS; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31044290 
  10. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System; International Journal of Molecular Sciences; 2018 Mar 13; Shenglong Zou and Ujendra Kumar; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877694/ 
  11. Cannabidiol; US National Library of Medicine; National Centre for Biotechnology Information; PubChem; https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Cannabidiol
  12. Cannabis, a complex plant: Different compounds and different effects on individuals; Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology; Dec 2012; Zerrin Atakan; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/


Author Details
Senior Editor & Researcher , Greenthevoteok
Matt Hansel is a Medical Practitioner, who has been writing and researching about cannabis since 2014.  His popular quotes which we like are: \"Don\'t use CBD oil for a cure, use it as a precaution\"  \"CBD should be considered as any other vitamin supplement and your body needs it!\"