Driving and Marijuana: A Dangerous Combination?

A recent study in BC showed that among frequent marijuana users, 80% of men and 75% of women admitted to driving after consuming marijuana in the previous month. While some will claim they are “better drivers” when they’re high, the evidence says otherwise.

According to that same study, “acute marijuana use approximately doubles the rate of crashing.” Jeff Brubacher, an emergency room doctor at VGH and co-author of the study, believes legalization could mean more road crashes, injuries, and fatalities. With legalization around the corner, now is the time to get educated.

Since making it an issue in the 2015 Federal Election, the Trudeau government has now revealed its plan to legalize recreational marijuana in the summer of 2018. Driving while high is a central part of the proposal, with proposed regulations to keep stoned drivers off the road.

Under the Cannabis Act, Canadians over the age of 18 will then be legally allowed to possess, grow, and purchase a limited amount of products made from cannabis – including cannabis itself plus oils, plants, and seeds. Details about the proposed act can be found on the Government of Canada website here.

While the permitted amount will be small (30 grams with some definitions clarified on the government site linked above), it will be illegal to consume marijuana and drive. If the law passes, it will include amendments to the Criminal Code that will cover enforcement, roadside testing, penalties, and criminal consequences. Driving while stoned will be very much like drinking and driving – a criminal offence.

Should recreational pot use become legal in Canada, we need to be aware of the risks of getting stoned and getting behind the wheel of a car. We’ve seen for decades how deadly drinking and driving is. And more recently, we’re seeing the dangers of drivers distracted by their cell phones. If you’re high, you don’t drive.

For more information

  • Liberals table bills to legalize pot, clamp down on impaired driving, CBC News
  • Simple roadside tests can identify pot-impaired drivers, study shows, Global News
  • How Much Does Marijuana Impact Your Driving?, Time

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Michael Slater, K.C.
Michael Slater K.C. is the founding partner of Slater Vecchio. The majority of his practice is confined to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury cases.