The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada has raised various questions about how law enforcement will deal with a likely increase in impaired driving charges. If we want to know what the future might have in store,, we can look at the State of Colorado which legalized recreational marijuana approximately four years ago.
In Colorado, the rate of impaired driving under the influence of cannabis has dramatically increased. In fact, since legalization more than 20% of drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents tested positive for cannabis. [i]
When more than 150,000 cannabis users in Colorado were surveyed, almost 70% admitted to having driven high at least once over the last year and a staggering 40% said they didn’t believe marijuana impacted their ability to drive.[ii]
This attitude harkens back to the days when many people believed that it was ok to drink and drive. While the attitudes of Canadians toward getting high and driving are not fully known yet, these statistics from Colorado pose concerns.
Impaired Driving and Enforcement Challenges
Unlike blood alcohol levels which tend to correlate well with impairment levels, THC levels from cannabis use is going to present some unique challenges.
While there are roadside saliva tests which may be used, as well as blood tests for THC, they are not necessarily an accurate test of impairment. Furthermore, THC levels in blood can change rapidly and significantly; levels can drop as much as 60% in just 15 minutes after smoking marijuana, and testing results can be even more ambiguous if the user was consuming edibles.[iii]
This can explain, in part, why the laws for determining impairment may pose challenges for police forces.
For now, police forces across the country are training a number of their officers in an international program aimed at teaching law enforcement how to evaluate whether a driver is impaired. This 10 day drug recognition course teaches a 12 step evaluation method based on such factors as psychomotor abilities, blood pressure, and temperature.
What should you do if faced with charges?
If you are facing charges of driving impaired under the influence of cannabis, it is important to consult with a skilled criminal defence lawyer immediately. They can help you through the process and make sure that your rights are protected.