Cannabis, Cars & Impaired Driving

Nov 27, 2018

Litco Law - Cannabis and CarsAs personal injury lawyers, we’ve seen firsthand the terrible impact of driving while drunk. Now, with cannabis entering the mainstream, motorists face a new danger. On October 17, 2018, Canada made history by becoming one of the first countries to fully legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use. Regardless of your stance on the matter, one thing is for sure: in our post-legalization landscape, there’s never been a more relevant time to talk about safety on Alberta’s roads.

Let’s make something clear – high driving is impaired driving, and when someone gets behind the wheel while under the influence of cannabis, they’re risking a whole lot more than just their own lives. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of facts about cannabis and driving, so you can avoid a cannabis-related auto accident and a trip to see an injury lawyer.

Cannabis is an impairment.

Despite what some folks claim, driving while high is extremely dangerous. In fact, a recent CAA study found that in 18- to 24-year-olds, cannabis significantly impacted technical driving skills like merging, turning, dealing with roadside distractions, and being conscious of pedestrians. This data paints a pretty clear picture about the true effects of driving while high, and the negative effects of indulging irresponsibly.

New tests are coming.

In the past, there were very few ways to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a motorist was driving high. Unlike drunk driving, which all police forces are familiar with, testing for THC is more complicated, as it requires specialized equipment and training to determine level of impairment.

As it stands now, if you’re pulled over under suspicion of cannabis-impaired driving, you’ll be subjected to the standard field sobriety test just like a suspected drunk driver. However, the only way to quantifiably determine a driver’s level of impairment is through body fluids. Bill C-46 states that drivers in excess of 2 nanograms of THC per ml of blood will result in a summary conviction, with criminal charges for those over 5 nanograms. With new field-testing devices specifically designed to measure THC in saliva, blood, or urine on track to be approved for police use in the near future, expect big changes as our country adapts to the changing risks of the road.

When in doubt, wait it out.

Driving safely after consuming cannabis requires a significant amount of waiting. The exact amount of time is currently up for debate with scholars and lawmakers, and until we know conclusively, its best to err on the side of caution and avoid driving altogether. However, if you must drive the same day you partake, the current general rule is to wait a minimum of two hours after consumption before getting behind the wheel. The main issue with this figure is that the THC content of cannabis and its effects on different people vary considerably – so the more time you wait, the better off you’ll be.

Smoking vs. safety

The problem with cannabis-related motor accidents is that knowledge and information won’t deter everyone. In fact, a brand-new study by Health Canada revealed that while 8 in 10 of the 13,000 participants were aware of the risks of cannabis-impaired driving, a whopping 4 in 10 admitted to having done that very thing, and more than 1/3 of those respondents confessed that they had driven high within 30 days of the survey.

Even if you use cannabis responsibly and abstain from driving while high, the reality is that you’ll still inevitably share the roads with someone who thinks that the rules don’t apply to them. If you fall victim to a cannabis-related motor accident, the accident injury lawyers of Litco Law will help you secure the compensation you deserve. We’ve fought for Alberta’s drivers for more than 42 years, and as legal cannabis rolls out across the country, we’re more committed than ever. Contact us for a free consultation.


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