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The Impact of Legal Marijuana on Impaired Driving Charges

Currently section 253(1) of the Criminal Code prohibits driving under the influence of any drug including marijuana. Penalties for drug impaired driving range from a $1000 fine to 120 days in jail. Currently roadside police rely mostly on general observations of an individuals mental state, appearance and the presence of any smell of marijuana to determine whether an individual is impaired.  In preparation of the legalization of marijuana, the government has proposed additional legislature to better allow police officers to determine impairment roadside.

Bill C-46 which is currently under review by the Canadian legislature, would extend police powers so that Police Officers would be permitted to demand saliva samples if they suspect an individual has consumed drugs. These saliva samples would be used similarly to a breathalyzer. Police officers would be required to carry equipment that would allow them to determine the levels of THC in an individuals blood stream. Individuals found to have more than 2 nano-grams of THC per 1 millilitre of blood would be deemed impaired and subject to a summary conviction offence. Individuals who are found to have more than 5 nano-grams of THC in their bloodstream would be charged with a hybrid offence; that is the Crown may proceed either summarily or by way of indictment.

Though Bill C-46 has not yet been passed, it is a good indication of how the Government is intending to combat potential driving while impaired concerns. The Canadian Government seems to be treating impairment by marijuana similarly to impairment by alcohol, ensuring police officers are equipped to do timely testing of THC levels roadside to determine impairment onsite.

The difficulty with this approach however is that determining how much pot will put you above the 2 nanogram level is significantly more difficult than determining the impact of a pint of beer. While a pint of low alcohol beer for most individuals will not put them over the required driving limit, one joint of weed depending on its strength and how it is consumed may impair some, but not all individuals. This inability to self-regulate the amount of THC in your blood levels will most likely result in more individuals being charged for impairment offences if this new legislation is passed

Impairment charges, whether by alcohol, prescription drugs, or marijuana are severe. It is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our lawyers at Stern Shapray Criminal Lawyers are thoroughly experienced in the area of impaired driving charges and are happy to provide you with an initial free consultation, so that you can better understand your legal options.

Stephanie Head

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