Uruguay is Using Weed to Stop Stoned Driving


As marijuana legalization spreads throughout the world, one main sticking point for the opposition has been the potential impairment of drivers. With more people using cannabis products, it has become increasingly important to acknowledge the dangers of driving while stoned.

It was once believed that, like alcohol, breathalyzer devices could solve the issue and keep impaired drivers off the road; that theory was debunked. Because marijuana users build up strong tolerances that they wouldn’t necessarily acquire with alcohol, two drivers with similar THC-content in their blood may perform differently in driving situations.

potsters-3As nations and states race to figure out how to best detect someone’s level of “stoned,” Uruguay is taking a slightly different approach.

The South American country that legalized marijuana for adults back in 2013 is using the plant itself to combat cannabis-impaired driving. Uruguay’s Association of Cannabis Studies started a poster campaign over the holidays in the well-traveled area of Montevideo where they used special paper derived from hemp to display warnings about the dangers of smoking and driving.

Hemp plants were shredded and flattened before they were completely dried out. Once all of the moisture was removed from the fibers, they were hand-crafted into sheets and printed using a silk screening process.

“We reasoned that if posters made out of pot gave you advice about safer driving, it was probably the most ideal way in which marijuana can actually be beneficial to someone while behind the wheel,” says Juan Ciapessoni, Chief Creative Officer of The Electric Factory, the marketing firm who designed the 6’ x 3’ “potsters.”

Ciapessoni added, “the main objective of all of this is to make people understand how important is to be very responsible when driving. It was equally important for us to send a big message so that it will have meaningful social impact.”

Uruguay won’t have to worry about vandals stealing the posters or ripping off pieces to smoke, as the paper milling process removes any chance of getting high from the already THC-deficient hemp plants.

“It would be really funny, but not effective, because the process for producing the paper removed the psychoactive effect,” says Ciapessoni. “So if someone smoked it, it would be like smoking a standard paper.”

Cover Image Courtesy of AdWeek

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Used to write about music for XXL, Elevator, Complex, Genius, and a few other outlets. Follow @LongLiveTheDuke on Twitter if you'd like to read way fewer words by me.


  1. Uruguay sounds like a more civilized country than the US. Hanging posters made of hemp to discourage stoned driving wouldn’t be very effective here.

    The question that interests me is whether the social stigma to avoid driving drunk (which is well established now in most corners of the culture) will ever carry over to stoned driving.

    Or even that it should. I know I can safely drive stoned up to a point, which varies by location and traffic, but above a certain point I know I’m impaired. But that’s solely based on observing myself. Unlike with booze, I usually underestimate my ability to drive, and thus don’t do it. With booze, the opposite, that false confidence, is a killer.

    All of which illustrates how complicated stoned driving is to detect and stop. The intoxication effects (if you can even call it that) are almost the polar opposite of booze.

  2. The truth is that stoned driving is not nearly the danger that drunk driving is.
    This has been confirmed by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration
    (NHSTA) which has acknowledge that there is no increase in likelihood of fatal
    accidents among drivers under the influence of cannabis. Unlike drinking drivers,
    those using cannabis recognize and compensate for any impairment. Unlike drinking
    drivers, they are more careful, not less so. Pot never causes the degree
    of impairment that alcohol does.

  3. Actually, the truth is…stoned driving is just as dangerous and irresponsible as drunk driving. And it’s a shame that there’s never been a way to test that, since THC stays in the system for months, and it’s just never been done. But we who have experienced THC know that it’s psycho-active and impairs our perceptions and physical abilities.

    The reviewers on Leafly are correct that warn us about smoking/vaping and driving in their reviews. I’m glad they’re doing that.

    • Actually, Jane, Dan is right.
      According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration:
      “The existing epidemiological research (both culpability and case-control studies) have produced contradictory estimates of risk for marijuana use. Some of these studies have suggested that marijuana use has mini- mal or no effect on the likelihood of crash involvement, while others have estimated a small increase in the risk of crash involvement.”

      Conversely, “A considerable body of research has demonstrated the impairing effects of alcohol on driving-related skills. The relationship between BAC and crash risk was first well established by the “Grand Rapids Study” in 1964 (Borkenstein et al., 1964). That study provided compelling evidence that even moderate BAC levels were associated with increased crash risk and that the risk grew rapidly at BACs of .10 or higher. A study by NHTSA in the late 1990s provided more precise estimates of the risk of driving at lower BrACs (Blomberg, Peck, Moskowitz, Burns & Florentino, 2005).”

      Their conclusion: Individuals who smoke weed when driving have a minimally higher risk of crashing than their sober counterparts. For their 20-month study of nearly 11,000 drivers in Virginia Beach, researchers at the NHSTA worked 24/7 comparing drug and alcohol related test results from people involved in automobile crashes against similar people (at the same time of day and location). Concluding that, when factoring the given variables such as age, sex, and race, there was no “significant increased risk of crash involvement” due to marijuana use.

      Try Googling it: ” [PDF] Research Note: Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk – NHTSA”

      • “Individuals who smoke weed when driving have a minimally higher risk of crashing….” tells me that no one smoking weed should be driving at all….

        • Understood. That’s your opinion and you are most certainly entitled to it. However, this Arizona judge drilled down on the subtle nuances of the argument: “Appellate Judge Diane Johnsen ruled Arizona medical marijuana patients cannot be convicted of driving under the influence absent proof they were actually too high to drive.”

          • I guess some day they’ll have an accurate test. Do you happen to know what kind of numbers currently represent a driver that is “too high to drive’?

    • The Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk report, produced by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk. In fact, after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, the report found that stoned drivers were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not intoxicated at all.

  4. It’s hard to imagine that anyone high on THC has control of their senses enough to drive without being a hazard to all others on the road.

    • But Jane, how do you quantify “high?” If I am a frequent marijuana user that consumes 3 times a day for example, my experience (or tolerance) will keep me from getting as “high” as someone who just tried smoking for the first time. We may have the same amount of THC in our system, but our bodies handle it much differently.

      • If you say you’re not “as high” as someone else, you are too high to drive. I think everyone knows what a mild high or a strong high is and I believe any kind of ‘high’ is not good for driving.

        I don’t know how they would differentiate between the Medical user that is using Cannabis suppositories that keep him from getting any ‘high’ at all, and the Rec user. It seems the Cannabis would show up in both, but should only be of concern with the ‘other than’ Medical suppository user.

  5. Jane stop screaming you don’t know what you are talking about. In the seventies I never drove with out a joint in my mouth. I have driven all around Houston under the influence of things I hope you never see. But not one accident. So calm down and opine on a topic you know about, not something you just have an opinion on.

  6. You guys just need a good dose of reality….obviously in short supply these days. Anyone driving ‘high’ on anything puts others on the road at risk…common sense.

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