As of June 21, 2018, new Canadian laws impose stiff penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs, giving police officers lots of new powers to catch high drivers, and make sure they pay the price.
According to a University of Western Ontario study, drivers killed in a car accident in 2014 were more likely to have drugs in their system (42%) than alcohol (29%). The most common drug found was cannabis. In a legal weed environment, this problem could get much worse. It seems both federal and provincial governments have acknowledged the problem, and taken steps to discourage weed behind the wheel.
Just in case you thought that the federal government that campaigned on legalizing pot was going to take it easy on drivers who indulge in cannabis, think again. The Canadian penalties for driving high are very similar to those for driving drunk.
|Min Penalty||Max Penalty|
|2-5 ng of THC||None||$1,000 fine|
|5+ ng of THC||1st Offence||$1,000 fine||5 yrs prison|
|2nd Offence||30 Days prison||5 yrs prison|
|3rd Offence||120 Days prison||5 yrs prison|
|Causing Harm||Same as above||10yrs prison|
|Causing Death||Same as above||Life in prison|
The federal legislation also has a combination limit that can hit you with the same penalties above if you have both cannabis and alcohol in your blood.
Provinces have additional penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis that also mirror drunk driving laws. In Ontario, penalties apply even if you aren’t over the legal limit of 5 nanograms (ng) per millilitre of blood.
If you are caught with 2 or more nanograms of THC per ml of blood, the following penalties apply immediately (in addition to federal penalties):
If you are convicted of driving with more than 5 ng of THC per ml of blood, the following penalties apply (in addition to federal penalties):
Breathalyzer tests have been available to police for decades, and have been incredibly effective tools to help catch drunk drivers. Until recently, catching drug-impaired drivers was much more difficult.
Police have the following tools to identify drug-impaired drivers:
The penalties above require you to fail a blood test, but there are other ways that impaired driving laws can bite you.
In terms of how much cannabis you need to ingest in order to test positive for THC, it’s not altogether clear, however some experts have suggested that even one puff of a joint could lead to a reading over 2 nanograms and because THC is fat-soluble, it could show up in a blood test weeks later. Saliva tests won’t pick it up after 6 to 8 hours.
Users of cannabis that have a prescription are not subject to the same restrictions in terms of blood and saliva testing, but can still be charged with impaired driving if there is evidence that they are impaired (e.g., slurred speech, erratic driving, failing a roadside sobriety test).
Disclaimer: The information above is for general purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Be sure to check with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Government of Canada for up to date information on the use of cannabis and other drugs while driving.
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