Legal Pot is Coming But Do We Know the Risks and Rules for Driving Stoned?

January 02, 2018, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

pot useLegalized pot is coming this summer and government is busy establishing the rules for points of sale, and the legal infrastructure around the use, possession, and consumption of the drug. There is considerable concern in all circles about driving drug impaired in Canada. We don’t currently have approved roadside test for THC levels, nor have we established the ‘safe’ and ‘impaired’ levels for driving while under the influence.

We know that alcohol increases car accident risk considerably, especially as BAC increases. The scientific evidence for establishing THC impairment levels seems much more convoluted. We know that cannabis impairs psychomotor skills, but the impairments degree and length of impairment seems to depend very much on the individual. The Federal government has collected data on this subject and has released this on their website.

Public Safety Canada conducted research with Canadians on drug-impaired driving in 2017. A summary of the findings shows that: 

  • 81% know someone who has used cannabis and 56% have consumed cannabis at some point in their lives
  • Among those who have used cannabis, 28% reported they have operated a vehicle while under the influence
  • One in three Canadians report that they have ridden in a vehicle operated by a driver who was under the effects of cannabis
  • Among those who have driven while impaired, 4 in 10 downplayed the risks by either indicating that driving while under the influence of cannabis is less dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol (25%) or that driving while under the influence of cannabis poses no real risk (17%)
  • 65% agree that cannabis users often fail to realize that they are impaired from using cannabis, and 25% believe that the impacts of cannabis consumption are less detrimental to driving ability than alcohol
  • 45% of youth (aged 16-24) report using cannabis, with the majority reporting they used it in the past 12 months
  • 22% of youth who have used cannabis said they drove while impaired and most said they did it because they don’t think it’s as dangerous as drunk driving
  • 1 in 3 youth have been a passenger with a cannabis impaired driver
  • 44% of youth say it is easy to tell if someone is too high to drive

What we do know is that

“Acute cannabis consumption is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions. This information could be used as the basis for campaigns against drug impaired driving, developing regional or national policies to control acute drug use while driving, and raising public awareness.” BMJ

I hope that before marijuana use is legalized we have clearly proven and established thresholds for consumption set, and that we give our law enforcement officials the roadside testing tools that they need to get unsafe drivers off the roads.


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