Current impaired driving laws in Canada are based around two subsections of the Criminal Code 253, which state that anyone in certain vehicles, in motion or not, commits an offence (a) while the person’s ability to operate the vehicle, vessel, aircraft or railway equipment is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or (b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person’s blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred millilitres of blood.
While the goal of the criminal code is to punish only those who break the law, we see here two subtle diversions from this goal. The first is that you can be convicted of driving impaired even if you aren't driving. The other is a concession to the dangers of alcohol: the setting of a hard limit means that you need not be impaired to be charged with impaired driving. So you can be legally convicted of impaired driving without being impaired, or driving.
With Alcohol, most of us are willing to accept these small inequities. While one person might not be drunk at the legal limit, another may be drunk well before that limit. We accept it, because the difference is small. This wedge in our acceptance is now being pushed by the Conservative Party in their rush to get Bill S-230 through the current sitting of the Senate.
What's the rush? Does it intend to deal with fatigue, estimated to cause 20% of all accidents?
Or will it tackle distracted driving, estimated to cause 22% of traffic fatalities?
Or will it deal with prescription drugs, deaths from which are greater than the number of traffic fatalities (including those caused by driving on prescription drugs)?
Nope. The rush is to ensure that police have the proper tools for cannabis legalization—tools to test drivers who are suspected of being impaired. This means tools to detect amounts of cannabis in a driver’s system, regardless of the fact that a) this is not an indicator of impairment, and b) there is no legal limit of THC, or any other cannabis compound that has been discussed as of yet. Let's also forget for the moment that the jury is still out on whether Cannabis impairs driving negatively; some people just like numbers, so here are some numbers:
All accidents (not just on the road) comprise less than 4% of deaths in Canada. Of this 4%, roughly 60% are traffic accidents. Less than 20% of this 60% of 4%, were caused by impaired driving, with 50% of those being impaired by alcohol, and the other 50% by all other drugs combined (including any who may have used cannabis anytime in the months preceding the accident).
Considering that science has not been able to judge cannabis impairment, and has yet to determine that it poses a risk on roads, where's the fire? Considering the equipment Bill S-230 is written for doesn't exist, and may never exist, why the rush to trample on the rights of citizens? While the Federal Liberals promised an evidence-based approach, here's hoping the no-longer-liberals in the Senate still hold that value.