NORML's Canary logo, a  yellow cartoon bird

NORML’s Canary app is designed to prevent marijuana-impaired driving

NORML, an organization that works to reform marijuana laws, has come out with an app that helps pot users determine if they are too stoned to drive. The app, called Canary, sells for $4.99 and works by giving people four mental and physical performance tests to measure memory, balance, reaction time and divided attention, and time perception, NORML writes in a press release. Those include “remembering a sequence of numbers, balancing on one foot, playing a digital whack-a-mole game, and then estimating a time period of 20 seconds,” as Alex Halperin writes for Fast Company.

Canary compares a person’s test results with either a personal baseline or a collective average, Halperin writes. The collective average is based on data from a large group of sober people, NORML writes. The app then rates the user with a green, yellow, or red light to indicate how capable they are to drive.

Halperin notes that the app can evaluate people on other types of impairment besides pot — such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and even exhaustion, as NORML writes. But NORML is touting Canary as a way for people to assess how high they are on marijuana, Halperin writes.

NORML writes:

‘Canary is the culmination of 60 years of combined technical and legal experience and thousands of peer-reviewed studies, including NASA, NHTSA, and DOD research, as well as upon thousands of studies specific to cannabis’ acute impact on cognitive and psychomotor functioning,’ said Marc Silverman, Canary’s developer. ‘Canary measures key performance indicators that may be impacted by potentially impairing substances, including marijuana, while respecting users’ privacy. Canary doesn’t share users personal data with anyone.’

The problem of knowing if a person is too impaired on pot to drive is expanding as more states allow medical or recreational marijuana, Halperin writes. In, Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana at the start of 2014, pot-impaired driving has been increasing, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), which is part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as this blog wrote back in May. This blog also reported in February of this year that pot users are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Canary is the first app to give consumers the scientific information they need to honestly and accurately evaluate their personal performance, privately, anytime, and anywhere,” says Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of NORML, according to the organization’s website. But Halperin writes that the app depends on the impaired person to actually take the app’s tests. Canary depends on users who are responsible and do not want to hurt anyone by driving impaired, Silverman said.

Some people remain skeptical that there is anything that will prevent impaired people from driving. In a comment to the Fast Company article, Margaret Manzi expresses that point of view: “I doubt many people will refrain from driving under the influence even if Canary gives them the red light. Legalized marijuana will up the DUI death statistics before too long.”

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