One of the primary concerns from law enforcement and other stakeholders as Canada moves towards legalization of marijuana is drug-impaired driving. As the government prepares to introduce legislation this spring to legalize and regulate cannabis, they have also been increasing their messaging around concerns with people getting high and then getting behind the wheel.
Public Safety Canada (PSC) has been releasing videos discussing concerns with cannabis impaired driving, especially among Canadian youth. One released earlier this month as part of an oral fluid drug screening device pilot project with PSC (alongside the RCMP, seven law enforcement agencies across Canada, and Rachel Huggins from PSC) stressed that young people continue to be the largest group of drivers in Canada who die in crashes and test positive for alcohol and drugs.
The pilot project will allow various police groups across the country to test out new roadside oral cannabis detection devices to see what works and what doesn't.
"Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a major contributor to fatal road crashes in Canada," says Huggins in the video. "Did you know that young people continue to be the largest group of drivers who die in crashes and test positive for alcohol and drugs?
"Reducing drug-impaired driving and increasing road safety are important issues for the Government of Canada. Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, and seven police forces across the country are leading a pilot to test drug screening devices on drivers until March 2017. If you are stopped and asked to participate, please volunteer. None of your personal information will be used. None of the device-testing results will be used in court as evidence for charges. Your cooperation will help inform future decisions on driving under the influence of drugs in Canada."
In a similar video, released yesterday, Huggins referenced statistics connecting the detection of cannabis with accident rates.
"Did you know that drugs can impair your ability to drive?" asked Huggins. "In fact, consuming marijuana doubles your chance of a car accident. In Canada, after alcohol, marijuana is the most common substance detected among drivers who die in crashes. If you’re the least bit impaired, don’t take a chance with your life."
The reference to the doubling of chances of being in a car accident comes from research that shows cannabis is more likely to show up in the systems of those involved in a car accident.
This campaign is similar to campaigns taken by other states and countries that have legalized cannabis. Uruguay recently unveiled hemp posters with messages about the dangers of using cannabis and driving, or being in the car with someone who has, and US states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have unveiled campaigns to discourage using pot and driving.
Similar to the ad from Colorado above, Alberta released a campaign saying "there is no difference between drugged driving and drunk driving". Last month, the Canadian Automobile Association unveiled a campaign to encourage parents to discuss high driving with their kids.
Although it is not legal there, New Zealand has also unveiled a similar campaign in the past.
More public service messages from the government of Canada and provinces and territories are expected as Canada progresses towards legalization.