Is Driving High Illegal in Canada?
You just had a night out with friends after such a long period. And it was fantastic. You are high, yet you need to get home. Will driving high get you into trouble with the authorities? Not only is driving high against the law in Canada but is also dangerous for you and other road users. While Cannabis consumption is legal in Canada, it does not exclude instances that can cause harm such as driving under influence. In Canada, over 40% of drivers killed in car accidents test positive for drugs, a figure that exceeds those who test positive for alcohol. You can still enjoy cannabis. However, you must take note of the legal limits that you can enjoy without risking your life and that of others as well without going against Canadian law.
How do drugs impair driving abilities?
Cannabis consumption is legal in Canada. However, people still consume other illegal drugs such as cocaine and prescription drugs. All these impair driving capabilities. Canada reports a drug-impaired accident every three hours. Even small amounts of drugs that may seem harmless can affect the ability of a driver to effectively react to situations on the road. Cannabis, being the most consumed drug in Canada, impairs the driving ability by:
- Slowing a driver’s reaction time- If, say, you were overtaking, saw an oncoming vehicle, and either needed to slow down or speed up to avert an accident, cannabis consumption will slow down this reaction, leading to an accident.
- Cannabis affects motor and driving skills- You may have had a clean driving record for years. However, this will be affected once you are high.
- It causes drivers to wander and vary speed- Speed inconsistency and wandering on the road are among the main causes of accidents. When high, a driver may not control the speed as well as the right driving direction.
- Impairs short-term concentration and memory- To avert accidents, drivers must have full concentration on the road. This is impossible if a driver is high as they not only get distracted easily but also forget vital things such as road signs.
- Reduces the ability of drivers to make decisions quickly as well as handle unexpected events- When high, you may not think fast enough that you need to shift back to your lane to let an oncoming vehicle overtake. Similarly, you may not handle it too well if animals dash in front of the car causing you to veer off the road.
Cannabis consumption impacts people differently. The feeling of impairment depends on various factors such as how much cannabis is used, the THC levels consumed, weight, size, and tolerance. However, you can not use tolerance to cannabis as a measure to determine your ability to drive.
What are the consequences of driving high in Canada?
After the passing of Bill- C-46, federal penalties and laws were added to the Canadian criminal code. The federal law is very clear about driving while impaired. If caught driving under influence, the following DUI charges apply in Canada.
- A $1,000 fine for anyone caught with 2-5 ng of THC per blood ml within two hours of a DUI test
- A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for first offenders with over 5 ng of THC per blood ml. A secondary offence warrants a mandatory jail time of a minimum of 30 days while a third and subsequent offence warrants a mandatory minimum jail time of 120 days.
- A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for first offenders with 50 mg of alcohol and 2.5 ng THC or more per blood ml. For a secondary offence, a mandatory minimum of 30 days jail time applies and 120 mandatory jail time for a third offence.
- Drug-impaired driving that does not cause death or bodily harm has a maximum penalty of 18 months. However, if indicted, the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.
- Drug-impaired driving that causes bodily harm has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment if indicted.
- Drug-impaired driving that causes death has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if indicted.
Marijuana driving laws by province and territory
Each province in Canada has implemented laws to complement the Bill C-46 federal cannabis laws. As such, you should expect different guidelines and procedures based on your province. However, in most provinces, commercial drivers and novice drivers must have zero drug content in their blood. Also, all provinces suspend licenses after drug screening test failures. If someone is found driving under the influence, they must attend mandatory educational programs. This also applies to medical marijuana. While it can be used to treat and help manage medical conditions, no one should drive during or immediately after marijuana use.
Canada uses various methods for drug detection. Police officers in Canada can demand a field sobriety test by bringing in a drug recognition expert or undertaking blood testing. In most cases, the first test cannot be used to lay a charge in a criminal trial. Only the second test can be used in a criminal trial.
What should you do if you are high and need to drive?
There is no excuse for driving high. Here are some measures you can undertake to avoid driving high.
- Have a designated driver- If you are attending an event, party, or even a meet-up with friends, always have a designated driver.
- Call a rideshare service or cab- If you find yourself high after a night out, use a cab or rideshare service to get you to your destination.
- Call someone to drive you home or pick you up- Regardless of whether you think it’s getting late or need to get home fast, wait for a friend to drive you home.
- Stay over- You do not have to drive home if it affects your safety and that of others. You can always stay over at a friend’s or even get a hotel room until you sober up.
- Take public transport- This is a safe travel means to get you to your destination.
As we mentioned, Canada has zero tolerance for driving under influence. If caught, you will face serious penalties such as an immediate driving license suspension, vehicle impoundment, fines, criminal record, and even jail time. Always plan ahead to avoid being on the other side of the law. And if you find yourself high, do not attempt to drive back home. Rather, stay over at a friend’s, use public transport or even call a friend to pick you up.