Drive high, get fined
By Tania Arora, Staff Reporter
Planning to drive while high? Get ready to pay a huge price.
Impaired driving has been a major contributor to road accidents. Now, after the legalization of cannabis, the British Columbian government has implemented stricter rules to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers. Beginning in 2019, new federal laws will be in place to address issues related to impaired driving.
In October of last year, the federal government legalized and regulated cannabis for recreational uses. Following the move, the government updated the Criminal Code of Canada to include sections regulating cannabis usage while on road. According to the ICBC website, the new legislation sets a limit for the blood drug concentration level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the principal psychoactive component of cannabis—that an individual can have while driving. It is illegal to drive with more than two nanograms of THC in your system.
The new legislation has also given police the authority to use roadside saliva drug testing to assess whether a driver has THC in their system. This roadside check can be followed up by a blood test at the police station to determine the level of THC and the possibility of criminal charges.
If suspected of drug-affected driving, the penalty can range from the suspension of your driver’s license and prohibition from driving, to fines, points on your license, and jail time. Penalties will depend on the amount of THC found in the blood and the number of times you’ve been charged previously, and will be harsher if cannabis is combined with alcohol.
The BC government has a zero-tolerance policy for Learner and Novice drivers, meaning drivers with such licenses aren’t allowed to drive if they have recently consumed any cannabis. If found guilty of cannabis-impaired driving, a Learner or Novice driver will be suspended of driving privileges and penalized, depending upon how much THC is in their system.
The Government of Canada’s website, in an April 2017 news release on the changes in impaired driving laws, called impaired driving one of the nation’s biggest killers.
“Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. The Government has committed to creating new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while under the influence of drugs, including cannabis,” said the news release.
Police can now randomly set roadblocks to check drivers for blood THC levels as well as blood alcohol levels. Anybody asked for a breath and/or saliva test has to comply with the procedure or else face the consequences.