As a result of the recent changes in the law surrounding the sale and use of cannabis, the Government has proposed changes to the law for those who drive while under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. In light of the sweeping reformulation of the law on impaired driving generally, the Government has taken a handlined approach to deal with those who drive under the influence of drugs.
Under the new regime, a peace officer would be permitted to demand that a driver provide an oral fluid sample if they suspect that a driver is driving under the influence of a drug. If the oral fluid sample tests positive for the presence of a drug, the officer would have the requisite “reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed” and arrest the driver. Thereafter, the detained person would be given a demand for a drug evaluation by an “evaluating officer”, or a blood sample.
The new regime would also establish a criterion which classifies the level of cannabis within a driver’s body within the preceding two hours of driving. There are three different classifications of levels which ultimately create three new offences; an offence for each level.
The levels are set by regulation and are based on the amount of THC that is detected in a persons body.
The following is taken from the Government of Canada Website: (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2017/04/backgrounder_changestoimpaireddrivinglaws.html)
- 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5 ng of THC: Having at least 2 ng but less than 5 ng of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood within two hours of driving would be a separate summary conviction criminal offence, punishable only by a fine. This lower level offence is a precautionary approach that takes into account the best available scientific evidence related to cannabis. This offence would be punishable by a maximum fine of up to $1,000.
- 5 ng or more of THC: Having 5 ng or more of THC per ml of blood within two hours of driving would be a hybrid offence. Hybrid offences are offences that can be prosecuted either by indictment, in more serious cases, or by summary conviction, in less serious cases.
- Combined THC and Alcohol: Having a blood alcohol concentration of 50 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, combined with a THC level greater than 2.5 ng per ml of blood within two hours of driving would also be a hybrid offence.
Having 5 ng or more of THC and having combined THC and alcohol are punishable by a mandatory penalty of $1000.00 for a first offence. Penalties escalate for repeat offenders like our current impaired driving law. The maximum penalties for driving while impaired by drug are identical to the maximum penalties for driving while impaired by alcohol.