Scuba Weed: PADI’s Next Specialty?

A significant social change took place on October 17, 2018 with the legalization of cannabis in Canada. But don’t put your head in the sand. Pot was available well before that date and it’s likely several divers were consuming. With all the changes that legalization brings, it would be interesting to ask:. Is it safe to dive after cannabis use? What are the risks? Have studies been done on the subject?

Good Judgment Required

We have no prejudice for or against cannabis. Alcohol, cannabis, caffeine, and certain medications are all drugs that can, if used in the right way, be fun, necessary, or beneficial. Even though smoking is never good for your health, everything in life is a question of balance and judgment.

In scuba diving, it is customary to avoid any form of intoxication except sometimes a little narcosis, or "drunkenness of the depths". If a substance may affect judgment, reflexes or behavior, regardless of the type of substance, one should refrain from diving even if it is a prescribed medicine.

Expert Opinions

We looked at DAN’s article about marijuana and diving, where the author asks medical professionals about their opinions concerning the combination. Across the board, the most important piece of advice we’ve found is that because of the lack of professional studies done on the relationship between diving and weed, it’s always better to be on the safe side. One popular opinion that stood out from DAN’s article was that because marijuana is proven to affect mental state, judgment and physical reflexes outside the water, diving high could be dangerous because of these effects. It’s a common reaction from most: anything that could impair a diver underwater should be forbidden. The lack of motor skills can create problems if something were to go wrong, and professionals agree that it just isn’t worth the risk.

There are some differing opinions when it comes to creating a link between the effects of alcohol and diving, and the effects of smoking and diving. As we all know, the effects of drinking and diving can be extremely dangerous. DAN put out an article drawing a link between drinking and nitrogen narcosis, reduced motor function, and more. There are even certain limits to drinking after a dive. But where is the link to smoking? The effects of alcohol on the central nervous system are different than that of marijuana, so are doctors saying no to weed because it’s dangerous, or because it’s better to be safe than sorry?

Safe diving, a shared responsibility

In many activities, we only think about our own safety and well-being. Scuba diving isn’t that kind of activity. Many safety features are connected to the “dive buddy” system. In case of air failure, entanglement, narcosis, disorientation, you rely on your dive buddy to provide assistance. In the case of a diver whose faculties are altered, they put not only their own safety in danger, but that of their friend. These elements must be taken into consideration when diving.

We have to be realistic

Many online scuba forums, including Reddit’s r/scuba and scubaboard, have threads where divers ask about the experiences of others. The stories are very interesting, however they should be read with caution; the experiences of others will not necessarily reflect the reality of the situation. That being said, here are some of the observations made by divers. Reddit user TheWittyWarlock admitted to diving high, claiming it was one of the best dives of their life. However, the user also stated that the dive did not pass 35 feet, and that it was a leisurely experience with little to no risk involved. The user claimed to have done dives at greater depths with currents and wrecks, but without any marijuana in their system. Another diver, user ProLicks, said that experience of at least 30 dives and 100 joints would be needed to safely dive under the influence. Other users pointed out that 30 dives is barely any experience in the diving world, so their logic is flawed. Regardless of the experience of a few divers, there are just people out there who will take the risk, and some who won’t. What’s most important is being properly informed of the risks and the benefits of anything concerning diving.

Scuba weed

Throughout various PADI documents and books, we found many different reminders that the use of alcohol or drugs is to be avoided during diving. Whether it’s legal or not.

Gotta know how to have fun!

It’s true that before and after a dive you should have a clear head, but after a good day of diving, we all find ourselves among friends to celebrate the day. Be it alcohol or cannabis in reasonable quantities between consenting adults, why not?!

Christina Papageorgakopoulos, Sebastien Savignac
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