Legalized marijuana has been a contentious source of debate in Canada for well over a decade. But whatever side of the debate you are on, everyone can agree that legalizing marijuana will have serious road safety implications.

In February of 2017, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government confirmed that it would follow through with his campaign promise to legalize marijuana in Canada by July 1, 2018.

The process is being headed by former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. The federal government will be in charge of changes to the criminal code and for licensing producers, but each individual province will be in charge of distribution.

Marijuana and Road Safety

According to a poll conducted by the CAA, as reported by Global News, nearly two-thirds of Canadians are concerned that driving will become more dangerous once marijuana is legal. Shockingly, the same survey also revealed that over a quarter of people felt that they “drive okay or even better when impaired” by marijuana. Such a view can only be described as dangerous, and further justifies road safety concerns.

Legalized Marijuana and Road Safety in Practice

According to a report by the American Journal of Public Health, in U.S. states where medical marijuana is legal, vehicle fatalities were 26% lower compared to non-medical marijuana states.

Moreover, states with legalized medical marijuana saw an 11% drop in fatalities after the legislation was passed. The exact cause of this correlation is not clear. It may simply mean that less people are drinking and driving, opting instead to stay at home.

What is clear is that driving while under the influence of marijuana is not safe. In fact according to a study by Columbia University “legalized marijuana use may double the risk of accidents for drivers.”

Smoking and Driving

Despite promising to legalize pot by Canada Day, 2018 there is worryingly little information to date about how police will identify and prosecute drivers under the influence of marijuana. According to Global News, the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation suggested “setting a limit on the amount of THC you can have in you and still be allowed to drive.” They didn’t, however, know or recommend what that limit should be.

Detecting whether or not drivers are under the influence of THC remains a difficult task, even in places like Colorado – where it has been legal for some time. There are tests which examine saliva and blood, but they are not approved, and are of questionable accuracy. After all, THC may remain present in the body for days even after its effects are no longer felt.

Legal Implications

There are many untested legal implications of legalized marijuana on our roads. The inability to accurately test drivers means that the real battle will take place not in parliament, but in the courtroom. Drivers face potentially long sentences just for having THC in their system. Conversely, people who are under the influence may fly under the radar as inaccurate testing methods fail to be approved.

There will also be serious implications for personal injury law. The difference from being injured by a sober driver compared to an impaired driver may not be evident in the injuries that someone sustains, but the difference in compensation can be huge. If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to impaired driving or driving under the influence of marijuana – don’t wait. Call the experts at Zayouna Law today to learn about your rights and legal options.