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The Impact of Legalization of Marijuana on Impaired Driving

Canada is scheduled to legalize recreational use of marijuana in July 2018. One area of concern is that this will lead to more impaired driving accidents. The leading cause of motor vehicle accidents causing death and injuries in Canada is impaired driving. The Canadian government has proposed changes in the Criminal Code to enhance the ability of law enforcement to detect when drivers are impaired on marijuana. Those changes include:

  • Requiring drivers suspected of impaired driving to provide an oral fluid sample for testing
  • Authorize use by police of drug recognition evaluations
  • Expansion of blood testing when drugs are suspected
  • Permit law enforcement officers to offer opinion evidence at trial on the subject of impairment

At the current time, police cannot conduct roadside testing for drugs when they pull a driver over for impaired driving. Proposed legislative changes would allow it.

Statistics and hazards posed by drivers using drugs

Impaired driving due to drugs accounts for approximately 2,500 incidents in Canada. This is only about 3 percent of the total number of incidents in one year. However, the statistics from the state of Colorado after its first three years of legalization of marijuana are concerning:

  • Traffic deaths related to marijuana use increased by 48%
  • Hospital emergency department visits increased by 49%
  • Hospital admissions due to the drug went up by 32%

Legislation to establish legal limits for THC, the ingredient in marijuana that creates the “high”, would set blood levels in much the same manner as impaired driving laws currently set for alcohol use. Although not the same as the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration level that exists as the legal limit for alcohol, the drug limits for THC would give police and the courts a standard to work with. Drugs and alcohol do not metabolize in the body at the same rates. Traces of THC could remain in a person’s body long after the drug has actually been consumed. Complicating use of test results in court as evidence of impaired driving is that differences exist from one person to another in the rate at which their bodies metabolize drugs. This could be where police officers trained as drug recognition experts could be used in support of test results.

Cantini Law|Droit takes an assertive approach to advocating for people who have been involved in accidents caused by impaired drivers. We serve the entire Maritime Provinces with offices in Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown and Saint John. Contact Us today at 1-844-CANTINI (226-8464) for a free consultation.

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