There is a lot going on when you’re driving. There are other cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and obstacles that can be dangerous. You need to be totally focused so that if something does happen, you can make a split-second decision, preventing an accident or injury.
Drugs can affect your ability to react and increase the chances of an automobile collision. Marijuana may not have the same effects as alcohol but that does not mean they are safe. In fact, impaired driving – from both alcohol and drugs – is the leading cause of criminal death and injury in Canada. One of the problems with marijuana is a person might not realize they are impaired. Impairment can last for more than 24 hours after marijuana use, well after other effects may have faded.
What If You Are Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana?
If you drive while impaired from marijuana, you could face a fine, criminal charges or even jail time. Fines or charges may vary depending on the level of impairment and/or driving experience. Similar to alcohol, there will be a zero-tolerance restriction for the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana, for drivers in the graduated licensing program. Also, similar to alcohol, marijuana will not be allowed within a driver’s reach.
How the police might test a driver for marijuana is unclear. There are some drug-test systems, but they have proven to be unreliable and inconclusive. If there is an approved roadside testing device — the way a breathalyzer is used for alcohol — then police could test for marijuana impairment at the scene after pulling a driver over. But the new B.C. law states that even if such a device is approved by the Federal Government in the future, police will still might be required to take a person back to the local department to go through the drug-recognition expert process, which involves things like checking a person’s pupils and heart rate, and conducting the standard field-sobriety test that checks a person’s ability to walk a straight line.
What Are Your Rights As A Driver?
If driving while impaired, law enforcement can demand a blood sample from a driver who they believe has been driving under the influence.
Even if a driver passes the drug tests and is considered sober behind the wheel, B.C.’s new law could still penalize them. The current legislation forbids any consumption of marijuana, in any form, by anyone inside a vehicle, whether driver or passenger. Fines range from $5,000 to $10,000 and could include a prison sentence of six months, though the Ministry of Public Safety said it expects to simply issue tickets for such offenses and not attempt court prosecution.
How driving laws evolve as the government makes clear rules around marijuana and its consumption, is still to be determined. For drivers, it’s best if they avoid using marijuana altogether. If you do use, take a taxi or arrange a ride. If you are in an automobile accident please don’t hesitate to contact us for legal advice.