Article by Jennifer Yang, Toronto Star
For the millions of Canadians who use cannabis, there are just 64 days left until they can light up a joint, inhale and breathe easy knowing that they are staying comfortably within the confines of the law.
But even after Oct. 17, when cannabis becomes legal, marijuana users who get behind the wheel will find themselves veering back into murky legal territory. While there may be new drugged driving laws on the books — and saliva testing devices heading soon to a police cruiser near you — critics say the legal landscape is still hazy for marijuana users who drive, with the potential to criminalize people who are not actually impaired.
Canadian regulators have now introduced legal limits for blood concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana — even though researchers say there is no direct relationship between impairment and specific levels of THC in the bloodstream. Critics have also pointed to potential issues with roadside saliva testing devices, which were not designed with Canadian winters in mind and require internal temperatures of at least 4 C to work.
Civil liberties advocates now worry the government has adopted a “zero tolerance” approach based on inconclusive science. They fear that sober people will end up receiving criminal records — and those at greatest risk will be medical cannabis users and racialized communities that are already over-policed, said Rob De Luca with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“It’s going to criminalize a host of individuals who are basically going about their day, thinking they’re doing completely legal behaviour,” said De Luca, director of the CCLA’s public safety program. “The impact of bringing the full weight of the state and the criminal justice system against someone who may not have been impaired behind the wheel — that’s a remarkable thing.”