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Will police test you for drug-impaired driving?

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Soon, you may be asking “What is my nanogram count?” if you decide to drive after using cannabis.

In June 2018, the federal government established new offences for cannabis-impaired driving. Lawyers will be studying the new laws to be ready to assist people charged with the new offences when they go into effect on December 19, 2018.

How the drug-impaired driving test works.

The test will be similar to the breathalyzer tests used for alcohol impairment. The tests reportedly detect the amount of THC – cannabis’ main psychoactive component – in your body by measuring how many nanograms (a billionth of a gram) of THC you have per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving a motor vehicle.

The new criminal offences.

As reported in the National Post, these will be:

Two nanograms: If you have between two and five nanograms (ng) of THC in your blood, you face a summary conviction and up to a $1,000 fine.

Five nanograms: If you have more than five nanograms of THC in your blood, this is a hybrid offence. Depending on the amount of THC and the seriousness of the offence, the penalties include:

  • A mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 on a first offence
  • 30 days imprisonment for a second offence
  • 120 days imprisonment for a third offence

A combined alcohol / cannabis offence:

A Blood Alcohol Concentration level of 0.05 and a THC level above 2.5 nanograms carries the same penalties as the five ng cannabis offence.

When and how you will be tested

You may be asked to take the test if police think you have been driving while impaired. This could happen if:

  • The police stop you because you are driving erratically
  • The police smell cannabis in your car after they have legitimately stopped you for another reason.

Police will use roadside saliva-testing devices starting in 2019. They will scrape saliva from your tongue and put it into the device. If you fail the test, the police can take you in for further testing, including a blood test.

You may refuse to undergo a saliva test. But you may face criminal charges for refusing that carry the same penalties as if you had actually been charged with driving while impaired.

Drug-impaired driving will have serious legal consequences. Be careful when driving after using cannabis, and be well aware of your rights if you are stopped and questioned by the police.

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