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Cannabis legalization in Canada

Canadian legislation prohibits driving while impaired by alcohol, cannabis or a combination of both. Impaired driving is a serious crime that can threaten both your and your loved ones’ safety and that of others on the road. CAA has compiled information you need to know about cannabis and impaired driving in Canada.

Every year, there are tens of thousands of impaired driving incidents in Canada, including several thousand drug-impaired driving incidents. Learn more about what constitutes impaired-driving and the penalties that come with it through the Department of Justice’s portal on impaired driving.

The Government of Canada has a tool which shares links to all provincial and territorial legislation, with a brief breakdown of the regulations. Cannabis regulation varies from province to province. Learn more about your province’s legislation here:

FAQs:

Whether impaired by alcohol or drugs, impaired driving is a serious criminal offence in Canada. The legal limits for cannabis permitted in a person’s blood are so low, it’s best to never mix cannabis and driving. Don’t take a chance. Don’t drive high.

While inhaled forms of cannabis can reach your lungs within a few minutes and produce higher euphoric effects quickly, edibles need to be digested to get in your blood stream and effects take longer to appear. Maximum THC blood levels occur between one and six hours later and the effects could last for up to 20 hours. (University of Toronto).

Everyone’s response to cannabis differs and can vary with the form of consumption. Cannabis can cause drowsiness, slower reaction times, lowers your ability to pay attention and impairs coordination. Using cannabis and then driving or operating heavy machinery can result in an accident, serious injury or death (Government of Canada).

According to CAA-funded research, young Canadians who inhale cannabis are at a greater risk of a vehicle crash even five hours after consumption. The effects of edible cannabis can take longer to appear, and the impairing effects can last longer too. At least one Canadian study recommends waiting at least six hours before driving after smoking cannabis and at least eight hours after ingesting it (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).

Yes, despite the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis, it can still affect cognitive abilities, impairing a person’s ability to drive safely. This is the same reason why some prescription drugs come with warnings not to drive or operate heavy equipment while taking them (Canadian Public Health Association). Consult your doctor before driving after taking a prescription for medical cannabis.

Just like you shouldn’t drink and drive, don’t drive high.  If you are impaired, here are some options to avoid putting yourself, passengers and other drivers at risk.

  • Plan ahead, have a designated driver.
  • Call a friend or loved one to pick you up.
  • Take public transit.
  • Call a cab or ridesharing service.
  • Stay over.

Police enforce drug-impaired driving laws using a Standard Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and Drug Recognition Experts (DRE). New legislation permits law enforcement to use approved drug screening devices to detect the recent presence of several drugs, including THC from cannabis.

Following a legal roadside stop, police can demand an oral fluid sample and/or conduct an SFST if they suspect you are driving under the influence of a drug.

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