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The Legalization of Cannabis and Impaired Driving

Marijuana and Driving under the Influence – Do you Know Where your Teens Are?

With the imminent rush to legalize marijuana in Canada, the Government of Canada has proposed legal blood limits on THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, for drivers of motor vehicles. While the introduction of set limits and roadside testing is invaluable, prevention is always the best cure.

In conjunction with stricter impaired driving laws in the Criminal Code, Health Canada has launched a $9.6 million public awareness campaign focused on educating youth, teens and young adults of the risks of using marijuana. One element of this campaign is a series of advertisements, including one related to the risk of driving while under the influence of marijuana. You can view the ad here: “Do Not Drive High” campaign.

According to government studies:

  • Half of 16-24 year olds believe that it is more socially acceptable to drive while under the influence of marijuana, versus alcohol.
  • One in three Canadians, and 15% of high school age children, have been in a vehicle driven by someone under the influence of marijuana.
  • More Canadians have died in car crashes involving drug-impaired driving than alcohol-impaired
    driving.
  • In general, drug-impaired driving offences increased 38% in Ontario in 2016. In 2013, amongst seven categories of drugs, cannabis accounted for 49% of all fatally-injured drivers of highway vehicles in Canada.
  • Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 account for the majority of driving fatalities, with nearly 30% being related to drug-impaired driving.

The Government of Ontario recently announced new impaired driving rules, including zero tolerance for anyone under 21 years old, novice drivers, and commercial drivers.

For all other drivers, new legal limits on THC in the body have been proposed for the Criminal Code. Driving with more than 2 nanograms of THC per 1 ml of blood is subject to a fine, driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC per 1 ml of blood could result in jail time and/or fines, and at least 2.5 nanograms of THC per 1 ml of blood and at least 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood could result in jail time or fines. Saliva tests can be administered to test for the presence of THC, and police would be permitted to require a blood sample to confirm the levels of THC in the driver.

The Government of Canada campaign explains to teens that the use of cannabis can affect balance and coordination, motor skills, attention, judgement, reaction time, and decision-making skills, and offers a talking kit for parents to start the conversation with their teens about the risks of using marijuana at drugfreekidscanada.org.

Awareness around the risks of driving under the influence of cannabis, especially given its impending legalization, is of paramount importance, for all of our safety.

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