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Washington Pot Czar – “What’s The Cannabis Equivalent Of A Standard Drink?”


I admit that I don’t drink alcohol that often. After all this is The Weed Blog, not the The Booze Blog. But I do consume alcohol beverages from time to time, and after a a couple of drinks (especially strong ones), I start to ‘feel it’ a bit. I don’t know what the marijuana consumption equivalent to alcohol is, whether it’s two drinks, one drink, and definitely not ten drinks. Marijuana has a different effect on me than alcohol does, and no matter how much marijuana I consume, I am always in control of my physical faculties. I can’t say that about alcohol.

I saw the following question posed by Washington State’s new ‘Pot Czar’ Mark Kleiman on Twitter. Which by the way, I think he should just change his official name to Mark ‘Pot Czar’ Kleiman, driver’s license and all:

mark kleiman washington state pot czar twitter


The link takes you to an article that he published today on SameFacts.Com. When the Pot Czar speaks, no matter what state, we should all listen, as these moments in history will no doubt be referenced by other states once they become legal. At the end of his article, Mr. Kleiman poses the question, “So, a technical question: how many milligrams of THC, by lung, have the equivalent mood-altering power of a standard drink?”

How do you feel? I don’t feel much after one drink, a little more after two, then after around five I can pretty much kiss my night goodbye. I never feel that way when consuming cannabis. There are times when I am more tired than others, but that also depends on how much I’ve done that day too. Because just as I don’t drink often, I don’t exercise often either! What do TWB readers think? What’s the cannabis equivalent of a standard alcohol drink?


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Johnny Green


  1. The effects may need to be measured with physical assessment in real time. There are too many variables to test them the same way. Research is a new job market after facilities are permitted to use cannabis.

  2. badweatherrr on

    Two different effects.

    Alcohol makes me feel like super man at precisely 1.5 beers the euphoria is such that I might do 45 in a 30 without thinking… And I’m certain I’m driving properly…

    Weed on the other hand, I’ll be doing 25 in a 30 after smoking a few hits, depending upon how far into the new sack of nugs I am… Watching for police, and pulling over at the first sign of Imperial activity… these aren’t the droids you’re looking for… move along….

    I had a friend who also happened to be the chief of police of a small town in Illinois…

    Sometimes we would go out getting stoned and drive around in his squad car….

    He was like, check this guy out, he’s drinking, lets pull him over, and he would tell him, hey, you’re drunk so how about a nice nap here by the side of the road… just pull over and sleep it off buddy.

    Then there’d be the stoned guy, who is invariably going 5 or ten miles an hour under the speed limit. He usually just left them alone being a stoner police chief.

    Having gotten to the point where I was smoking and ounce of insanity a day (that’s a fatty the size of your thumb once an hour, I used those papers that came off the roll like toilet paper, as long as you wanted it…) from a continuous harvest 500 plant 12 x 12 growlab churning out 6 or 7 varieties with several breeding lines being inbred to stabilize this thing I called tutti-fruity, a cross between a coffee smelling indica with a sativa that smelled like bubblegum, pine trees, and oranges with a hint of circus peanut, there’s no way, those guys at the KIRO tv station would have been able to get me stoned enough for the driving instructor or the cop to even notice I was stoned. I’m sure I’d be going 7 or 8 times over the 5 nanogram limit.

    At that time, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were never able to ever get me stoned enough to really impact my driving noticeably. I mean, I could be destroyed on ten hits of hash plant kief maybe…

    But the real truth is, there isn’t a drug that more negatively impacts a persons driving skills than alcohol.

    If you were flying a plane, and you were on amphetamines, there might be a danger of passing out more quickly on a turn because of g forces, but being stoned, the really interesting thing about the difference there is that you know you’re stoned. It’s not like drinking where you think you feel seven different kinds of wonderful, (until you’re blowing chunks out the window of course)…

    So, as I get too stoned, I just won’t drive.

    As I get too drunk, I don’t yet know I’m too drunk, so I’ll go ahead and drive maybe…

    Just sayin’ none of the people in the FOX news video would have been driving past the point of not being able to fool both the cop and the driving instructor. Under normal conditions, the stoned people just know, they’re not driving anymore….

    Here’s a video from the BBC where Gavin, the only test subject actually drove better when stoned

    A little Experiment made by the BBC; showing that driving under the
    influence of cannabis is not as dangerous as driving under the influence
    of alcohol

    Here’s the video that might have been fixed by FOX news

    How high is too high? KIRO tests pot-smoking drivers to find out

    Here’s the video that debunks the whole 5 nanogram limit showing that people that haven’t even smoked yet that day are already over the limit:

    Fox News Caught Faking Marijuana Driving Test?

  3. I need to make a correction. A very happy correction.

    Just read the ASA’s petition for a full-panel review by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for case #11-1265, ASA v DEA, the lawsuit to reschedule cannabis at the federal level.

    It turns out, the DEA *never did* claim that Phase III clinical trials (a-la FDA approval) are necessary to prove their safety and medical efficacy. The DEAs legal representation simply pointed out that none have been conducted. The judges who decided the case in January made that a plank in their decision, hoping no one would question it.

    I’m glad Joe Elford is a good lawyer.

    The petition cites it very clearly that the DEAs legal rep only pointed out that there “have been no Phase II or Phase III trials”, so while Phase III clinical trials would be *sufficient* to prove safety and medical efficacy, Phase III trials are not *necessary* to prove safety and medical efficacy. In other words, nowhere in the Controlled Substances Act does it say that FDA approval is NEEDED. After all, FDA approval simply makes interstate marketting of a substance OK by Uncle Sam — it’s not the grand poobah of medical qualification.

  4. Intoxicating? I am sorry my friend but I can smoke two Joints, and drive down the road in a straight line, Stop at appropriate intersections, see the kids playing on the side of road, and stop and start correctly. AFTER 2 beers, I wave back and forth in my lane. I hit bakes at all intersections,I stare at kids playing on side of road and car wants to follow my stare, and my stops and starts are jerky.

  5. Thisis Insane on

    I think it is time for this guy to stop relying on hearsay, and smoke a doob on one day, then have a drink (or 5) on the next, and figure it out for himself. Why he doesn’t is because he believes the brainwashing he (and the rest of us) have been getting for the past 50 years. THAT is a LOT of propaganda to fight against, and with the cash flow keeping it in place, I’m surprised we have come this far in this fight.

  6. IMO, one can get high and one can become medicated. High is a few tokes. Medicated is realizing the full medical benefits of MJ. I don’t think driving is a good idea at that point though it is better than letting someone with a 6 pack in them behind the wheel. People take Vicodin and Oxycodone and drive everyday. Is that legal? Would you get a ticket if you don’t blow “drunk” on a meter? MJ is a whole different ballgame as you don’t lose total control of your body as with alcohol/narcotics. I used to drink and I have taken pain killers. You can’t get drunk and expect to function for a few hours. The same with pain killers. MJ is relatively clean as you can wake up the next morning and never know you were smoking hours before. All smokers know this. Vaping and eating are the same.

  7. He needs to smoke a fucking joint if he really wants to know.I’m surprised he didn’t ask about its aphrodisiac effect on white women toward black men.

  8. I think that if you are going to get involved in the administration of new cannabis legalization you should be required to smoke, vape and eat some cannabis for about a period of a week. Once your initiation has been completed you can continue or never touch it again.

    I am finding that people who have not consumed cannabis lean towards prohibition, people who have tried cannabis are in the middle, and regular users, well that’s a given… People that state that they tried it and did not like it, need to try a number of available strains before they decide. There is far too much variety and modes of consumption, all with slightly different effects to try it once and formulate an opinion.

    To use the current comparison to alcohol, cannabis strains are a lot like the different varieties of alcohol, beer, wine, hard cider, malt liquor, vodka, gin, rum, jamaican rum, everclear, moonshine, tequila, mescal, whiskey, scotch, etc… Potency of cannabis strains are a lot like the proof ratings of alcohol; beer (Mexican cannabis) the lowest and Everclear (middle eastern Hashish) the highest.

    If there was a standard drink what would it be? Everyone knows that the multi spirited cocktails at the local bar can put the average drinker well into dangerous impairment levels. So is the standard drink one fluid ounce of anything but jamaican rum and mescal?

    If we would call a joint equivalent to a drink, then it would still be too much of a discrepancy between the two. As others have stated potency and tolerance are significant factors and so are how the intoxicants are consumed. A drink is easy, sip and chug, all the alcohol enters the body. Cannabis is different, take a big hit and hold it in, take a small puff and blow it out. Each method will influence the high and consequently impairment. Much of the smoke contains the intoxicant and a joint will waste 50% of the cannabis into the air easily. To prevent this, extinguish the joint after every hit and exhale into a bag. Then take a few breaths of fresh air and then inhale the contents of the bag until all the smoke has been processed by the lungs (I’m going to have to try this).

    The Czar needs to stop asking stupid questions via social media and get some funding for a scientific study. I bet there would be no shortage of volunteers to participate in a study that would allow them to consume cannabis and then drive a car on a closed course in varying road conditions and at night.

  9. this is the basic problem with people who’ve only experienced alcohol. they’re completely unable to understand the concept that different drugs do different things. and that quite frankly there is no equivalency.

  10. Until cannabis is reclassified to Sched III or better under the federal CSA, we can’t answer any questions about how cannabis use impairs judgement and driving, so asking the question is an exercise in futility.

    As it stands, the DEA has only licensed one entity to produce/distribute cannabis for research purposes in the United States: the NIDA. Technically, it is against anti-monopoly laws for only one producer/distributer to exist as there is no market competition to keep the NIDA from artificially inflating costs. The purpose of this monopoly is in keeping cannabis a Sched I controlled substance: the DEA says only phase III clinical trials can suffice to prove cannabis should be rescheduled, and the NIDA prevents any phase III clinical trials from taking place in order to preserve the Sched I classification.

    We cannot answer the question of if/how cannabis impairs judgement and driving without being able to legally test for it. We cannot default to personal opinion and anecdotes when making policies that have real-life consequences.

    Some people say that they drive better when they used cannabis; they’re more attentive to the road because they used cannabis. Some people say that cannabis users have the wits drunks do not have; that they can identify that they should not drive (and don’t) while drunks often misjudge their sobriety.

    Are these assertions true? …………….I have no idea. Though I do know that states that have enacted compassionate use (medical cannabis) see a 9% drop in DUI’s and DUI-fatalities (Anderson 2011). That’s simply a statistical reality and we cannot directly attribute a causal relationship to the decrease in DUIs. After all, compassionate use states also see a 5% drop in beer sales, as Anderson & Rees pointed out.

    No one will know until we can conduct sound (and legal) clinical research under controlled conditions, not just statistical analysis of DUI data. Not to make light of the issue, but in a very real sense, we absolutely have to get some people high and put them on a driver’s ed obstacle course before we try to make laws about driving on cannabis. As stated, however, there is no legal way to do this and publish while, federally, cannabis remains at Sched I.

  11. This question is key to the driving laws, and almost inconsequential for all other social applications and situations. If this number could be surmised, it would be nothing more than a guess. The interaction of CBD with THC in cannabis become a substantial obstacle to this question as well as interactions with over 60 other known cannabinoids.

    Further, tolerance to Cannabis effects varies. It builds at different rates in different people, and dosage is always variable when consuming the plant material in any way.

    I would say this is an unanswerable question and anybody called a Drug Czar, would only ask this to confuse the real issue with opinion in order to justify over controlling through a level of propaganda driven fear. This guy was hired to manage this new market, not kill it. I really wonder how long it will be until we can get Pro-Cannabis minded folks executing pro-freedom laws. Until then we will continue to live in this pseudo-psychotic legal position where government feels it needs to keep this plant away from people while appearing to respect individual freedoms.

    They need to stop acting in ways to appease us and settle us down and start treating those against legalization in those ways now. Those in power to legislate these issues should be favorable, not fearful of this change. I guess that will be a while.

  12. Mr. Triangles on

    He’s comparing apples to sunflower seeds. They are two wholly different substances with similar by SCIENTIFICALLY and PHYSICALLY DISTINCT effects on the human body.

    This man is in charge of drug policy, and he doesn’t understand the difference between the effects of pot and alcohol. Let me repeat that: in his mind, responsible for sorting out facts and engendering common-sense policy pot is equivalent to beer, never mind that one is a plant and one a brewed and fermented grain concentrate.

    Christ almighty, I can’t wait for the baby-boomers to die off.
    I’m sorry, I love you as people, but you produce and vote for fuckwits like this and always have.

  13. Mr. Triangles on

    He’s comparing apples to sunflower seeds. They are two wholly different substances with similar by SCIENTIFICALLY and PHYSICALLY DISTINCT effects on the human body.

    This man is in charge of drug policy, and he doesn’t understand the difference between the effects of pot and alcohol. Let me repeat that: in his mind, responsible for sorting out facts and engendering common-sense policy pot is equivalent to beer, never mind that one is a plant and one a brewed and fermented grain concentrate.

    Christ almighty, I can’t wait for the baby-boomers to die off.
    I’m sorry, I love you as people, but you produce and vote for fuckwits like this and always have.

  14. Cannabis gives me an expansive picture, alcohol gives me a cozy personal one, a nice cloud that a guy doesn’t want interference with. Weed is more like, Stand back and check this out.

  15. Can one measure the amount of certain and sure impairment based on the amount consumed, as you can do with alcohol? I don’t think so.

    You would have to take a group of smokers and have them smoke until all were impaired (regarding their driving) and use that as a baseline. It will vary wildly with regards to when each one becomes too impaired to drive. Tolerances matter as well as strength of the pot.

    “A new study by CU Denver professor Daniel Rees and Montana State University professor D. Mark Anderson suggests stoned-driving limits don’t impact traffic fatalities. Rees said he and Anderson looked at fatality data from 16 states that adopted marijuana-limit laws between 1990 and 2010 and found no statistically significant difference between states that did and didn’t have such laws.” ( http://www.kirotv.com/videos/news/extra-footage-stoned-drivers-hit-test-course/vqPqJ/ )

    Any criteria for “over the limit” must begin with AN OFFICERS HONEST OBSERVATION OF IMPAIRMENT IN DRIVING or else it is nothing but a witch hunt or a setup.

  16. I think that it is variable due to metabolism, biochemistry, tolerance. Scientific literature would suggest that 10 mg of THC is highly “intoxicating”, however some have a much lower tolerance and 2 mg would be sufficient.

  17. I think it depends on the person. I don’t drink but once in a great while but am a daily consumer of marijuana. I can smoke and function just fine, but give me half a wine cooler, and I am completely drunk. And I know people that are vice versa.

  18. There is a scientific method for him to find out this information, it will simply take time and volunteers for him to get it. It really depends on if he wants to go through the actual effort of gathering the information or just placing a random number on it.

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