The federal government launched their Don’t Drive High campaign today to draw attention to concerns around drug (specifically cannabis) impaired driving as Canada prepares to legalize next year.
#DontDriveHigh includes information on drug impaired driving in Canada, stories from Canadians impacted by drug impaired driving, suggestions for how to avoid driving impaired, information for parents on discussing the issue with kids, and information on getting help with drug abuse.
The website notes that Canadian men are 2.5 times more likely than women to have driven a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis, and that a drug-impaired driving incident occurs every 3 hours in Canada each day.
The website also notes that more than one in four cannabis users have reported having driven under the influence, and that marijuana doubles your chances of being in a crash (this is based on a research study from 2012).
These figures are, however, challenged by other studies which show different data. Conflicting data makes makes addressing concerns with impaired driving and cannabis in a post-legalized world challenging.
Concerns with drug impaired driving have been a major part of the debate around legalization in the House of Commons, with many opposition members noting that many police forces in Canada say they are unprepared to deal with legal cannabis and that no reliable impairment detection devices exist for cannabis or cannabinoids.
"Driving stoned is more dangerous than driving sober, but the difference is more like the additional risk of driving while sleepy or angry than it is like the additional risk of driving drunk. It’s nowhere near as dangerous as driving while using a cellphone, even hands-free. Stoned driving should be a traffic offense, not a crime like drunk driving. Traffic risks aren’t a substantial objection to legalization, though of course smart policy would discourage driving stoned, and especially driving with both cannabis and alcohol on board." - Mark Kleiman, the architect of cannabis legalization in Washington State
The government announced a pilot project late last year to test out different impairment testing devices. The program used “oral fluid screening devices” to test saliva for the presence of certain drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. Public Safety Canada said the results would help inform how police services counter drug-impaired driving in Canada.
The results were released last June, noting that, with proper training, the devices are reliable and a "useful tool" for Canadian law enforcement.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has in the past said they are preparing for an expected a increase in enforcement against marijuana-impaired drivers after legalization.
An Ipso-Nanos poll from earlier this year said that a majority of Canadians want cannabis impaired driving treated the same as alcohol. And also showed that not all Canadians feel 'stoned driving' is as big of a concern as drunk driving.
However, the poll shows no consensus on the subject. Nearly 20% of respondents said they don't believe driving 'high' on cannabis to be impaired driving. Only 12% of respondents said the same about alcohol. The report also shows that one in three Millennials don't consider driving while high on marijuana to be impaired driving.
A licensed medical cannabis producer in Canada made waves recently by launching a campaign with a marketing agency featuring strain names like Kourtroom Kush and Slammer Time, intended to draw awareness to impaired driving in a post legal world.
Many US States prohibit driving with blood THC concentrations of 2-5 ng/mL, which are levels also used in Canada’s proposed Cannabis Act. A recent AAA report on cannabis and driving pointed out that laws based on THC levels are arbitrary and therefore not useful.
Featured image by Ildar Sagdejev.