As cannabis moves closer to legalization, Canadians are asking themselves what it means for them. If the recent Toronto Star article is any indication, one area that’s coming under greater scrutiny is the issue of drugged driving.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about people choosing to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and police forces across Canada already have processes in place to deal with that reality. What will change once Bill C-45 and its companion, Bill C-46 — which includes greater enforcement for drugged driving laws under the Criminal Code — are our social norms. Literally overnight, police will find themselves enforcing road safety laws in an environment where people can buy cannabis from a local store. It is expected that a greater number of people will be experimenting with, or perhaps even regularly consuming, cannabis.
Drinking and driving has long since entered mainstream discussion. Today, most people know when to stop themselves or others from making a terrible decision. It’s become an accepted social norm. By contrast, given that one in four cannabis users in Canada reported having operated a vehicle while under the influence of the drug, it is likely fewer Canadians consider cannabis and driving in the same way, let alone how things will change under C-46, and the implications this may have for police and the public alike.
I come to this discussion with a unique perspective. I am part of a company that has been making roadside drug testing devices for over a decade that are used today by police around the world. These devices operate much like breathalyzers, except they require small amounts of saliva to determine the level of drugs in a person’s system. They use saliva because it correlates most closely to blood concentrations, so they are only detecting recent usage.
Needless to say, as a manufacturer of drug and alcohol testing products, improving road safety is a frequent topic of conversation. But besides the obvious fact that no one should ever drive when impaired after consuming drugs or alcohol, it’s important to understand what drugged driving really means, what tools police have at their disposal, and what Canadians who currently or plan to use cannabis must keep in mind whenever they get behind the wheel.