DUI Laws Tighten Up

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Major changes to Canada’s impaired driving laws changed this month. The changes were introduced by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in hopes of reducing deaths caused by impaired drivers. These provisions somewhat comprehensively address how police will detect cannabis impaired drivers and also introduce some new alcohol DUI laws.

“Impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death and injury in Canada,” Liberal MP Bill Blair, the government’s pot legalization czar, said Thursday in announcing the legislation. “In order to further protect Canadians, our government has committed to creating new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while impaired by cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.”

What Are The New Laws?

If they believe that a driver is drug impaired, police can demand they provide a saliva sample for a drug test. Those who have positive saliva samples for cannabis could be liable for a blood test to determine whether the level of inebriation is exponential enough to be considered a criminal offense. For those that have consumed drugs within two hours of driving, the following is now in effect:

  • A driver with anywhere between 2 and 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood could face a maximum fine of $1000.
  • Any driver with over 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood OR a driver who has been drinking and smoking cannabis at the same time will get a fine and could face jail time of up to 10 years.

“This bill, if its passes, will be one of strongest impaired-driving pieces of legislation in the world and I’m very proud of that,” Wilson-Raybould added.

The new driving laws also address the current operations for testing drivers who may be alcohol-impaired. Currently, drivers could only be tested for alcohol at a safety stop if there was “reasonable suspicion” that they are impaired. Now, drivers are all subject to mandatory breathalyzer tests. Some argue that this is an invasion of privacy and against our constitutional rights. But Wilson-Raybould addressed these concerns.

“I will, as I do with all justice pieces of legislation, be tabling a charter statement. I am confident of constitutionality of mandatory roadside testing,” Wilson-Raybould said. “This is not a device or a tool that doesn’t exist in other places in the world. In fact, mandatory roadside testing in many countries has significantly reduced the number of deaths on highways. I think that is of paramount concern,” she said.

Despite these somewhat rigid legislations, many are still worried that there won’t ever really be a good way to test whether or not a driver is too high to drive. That is because THC is fat soluble and as such, fat tissues act like sponges for the chemical compound. For this reason, THC migrates in the body to more fatty places like the brain as opposed to the blood. Because of this, blood tests could prove much lower than actual levels of impairment at any given time.

The police have not yet announced how they will be conducting saliva tests when drivers are suspected of being too high to drive, but many believe they will go with the commonly used DrugWipe system. Frankly, it seems that the for the average consumer best idea is to wait two hours after smoking before driving. Also, it seems like it’s a good idea not to smoke in the vehicle and always comply with traffic laws, so that being inaccurately tested for cannabis doesn’t even become an issue to begin with.

August 1, 2017

by Cara Wietstock

Profile photo of Cara Wietstock
Cara began working in the retail cannabis industry of San Francisco, CA in 2011 and continued in that sector for years. In 2015 she put down her budtender hat and dedicated herself to writing full-time. Her passion for the written word and deep respect for the healing properties of the cannabis plant fuel the passion in her posts.

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