Man rolling a cannabis joint while driving.
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When Weed Takes the Wheel: The Consequences of Driving High on Cannabis

Cannabis and the Road: A Combo That Doesn’t Roll Well

In recent years, cannabis use has become more prevalent in Canada with the legalization of the drug in 2018. Canadian statistics show that one in five Canadians over the age of 15 reported cannabis use in 2020. While the legalization of recreational cannabis has led to increased accessibility and acceptance, it has also raised concerns about the safety of driving under the influence. This blog post explores the safety dangers of driving high on cannabis and the legal ramifications in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Cannabis Use and Impaired Driving

According to Statistics Canada, cannabis use has increased in recent years, with 27 percent of Canadians reporting cannabis use in the past 12 months. Studies have indicated that driving under the influence of cannabis poses a significant risk. One analysis in 2012 showed that acute cannabis consumption doubled the risk of a fatal or serious injury crash. Another study in the same year reported that cannabis consumption more than doubled the risk of a crash, with the risk increasing with the amount consumed and frequency of use. Combining cannabis with alcohol further increased the risk of a fatal crash.

Studies estimating the number of crash deaths attributable to cannabis are alarming. One study estimated that there were 75 cannabis-attributed crash deaths in Canada in 2012, and another suggested between 89 and 267 cannabis-related crash deaths in 2010. These statistics highlight the serious consequences of driving high on cannabis.

car pulled over by police suspected of driving impaired on cannabis
In response to the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada in 2018, new laws and penalties were introduced to address driving under the influence of cannabis.

Legal Ramifications in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island

In response to the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada in 2018, new laws and penalties were introduced to address driving under the influence of cannabis. These legal changes were aimed at improving road safety, and law enforcement agencies have implemented new screening and testing measures to detect impaired drivers.

Each province in Canada has its own legal framework for dealing with impaired driving. In New Brunswick, a total of 95 charges were laid under the relevant sections for drug-impaired driving in 2020, with an additional 105 instances of administrative measures taken. In Nova Scotia, 1,577 charges were laid for drug-impaired driving in 2020, while Prince Edward Island saw 316 charges and 299 instances of administrative driving prohibitions imposed.

In New Brunswick (NB), Nova Scotia (NS), and Prince Edward Island (PEI), the penalties for driving high on weed, or any form of impaired driving, are significant. These penalties are in place to deter individuals from driving under the influence of cannabis and to ensure road safety. Here’s an overview of the penalties for impaired driving in these provinces:

  1. Immediate Roadside Suspension: If a police officer believes you are impaired by drugs, they can issue an immediate roadside suspension, which can result in the suspension of your driver’s license and the impoundment of your vehicle.

  2. Criminal Charges: If you are charged with impaired driving, you may face criminal charges. Penalties can include fines, driver’s license suspension, mandatory education programs, and potential imprisonment.

  3. Ignition Interlock Program: In some cases, individuals convicted of impaired driving may be required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, which requires them to provide a breath sample before starting their vehicle.

It’s essential to note that the specific penalties may vary depending on the circumstances of the offense, including the level of impairment and whether it’s a first-time or repeat offense. Additionally, these penalties are subject to change as provincial and federal laws evolve, so it’s advisable to consult with local legal authorities or legal counsel for the most up-to-date information on impaired driving penalties in these provinces.

First responder walking to a cannabis related accident
Driving under the influence of cannabis is both illegal and dangerous, and it's essential to prioritize safety on the road.

Cannabis Impairs Driving Abilities

It’s essential to understand that cannabis can impair individuals differently. The level of impairment depends on various factors, including the method of consumption, the quantity consumed, recency and frequency of use, and the type of cannabis and its THC levels.

It affects motor skills, slows reaction time, impairs short-term memory and concentration, and reduces the ability to make quick decisions or handle unexpected events. Public opinion research also shows that most Canadians agree that driving high is unacceptable, with 86 percent believing that cannabis impairs one’s driving ability.

Why People Drive High

Despite the risks and legal consequences, some individuals still choose to drive under the influence of cannabis. The top reasons for doing so include not feeling impaired, believing they can drive carefully, having a short distance to travel, lacking alternative transportation, and assuming they won’t be caught by law enforcement.

Driving high on cannabis poses a serious threat to road safety and can lead to tragic consequences. The legalization of recreational cannabis has prompted legislative changes and awareness campaigns to address this issue. It is crucial for individuals to understand the risks associated with driving under the influence of cannabis and to prioritize safety on the roads. Don’t take a chance – don’t drive high. When you drive a vehicle, you need to be alert and focused to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the road.

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