Cannabis Driving Laws: What You Need to Know
Rules and Regulations - Jul 23, 2020

Cannabis Driving Laws: What You Need to Know

When recreational cannabis was legalized in 2018, a lot of people were concerned about impaired driving. The government was quick to lay out the cannabis driving laws and the consequences that could follow. Of course, driving while under the influence of cannabis has always been illegal. However, the potential influx in cannabis consumers after legalization meant the potential for an influx in intoxicated drivers.

Before we look at the basic cannabis driving laws, let’s get something out of the way: you should NEVER drive while under the influence of cannabis. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced consumer, you never know how your body will react to cannabis. According to an evidence review done by the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), “most cannabis users consider their driving to be only slightly impaired by cannabis use, and some believe it may be improved by cannabis use.” This is false.

Alright, now let’s get into some details.

What are the prohibited levels of THC when driving?

According to the Department of Justice, it’s considered a “less serious offence” to have between 2 nanograms and 5 nanograms of THC per mL of blood while driving. It’s considered a “more serious offence” to have 5 nanograms of THC or more per mL of blood when driving.

There is zero tolerance for all young, novice and commercial drivers when it comes to having cannabis in their system. Check within your provincial regulations to see who the zero tolerance rules applies to specifically.

What are the penalties?

If you’re found to have more than 5 nanograms of THC or more per mL of blood in your system within two hours of driving, you’ll receive a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. The maximum penalty you could face is 10 years in prison. These penalties increase for repeat offenders.

If you have over 2 nanograms of THC but less than 5 nanograms per mL of blood in your system within two hours of driving, there is a maximum $1,000 for your first three offences.

How do police test if you’re impaired?

If authorities have reason to believe that you’re driving while under the influence of cannabis, they can demand you take an oral fluid drug screen which can detect THC in oral fluids. If this comes back positive, they can demand a blood sample. Authorities determine reasonable suspicion of intoxication through:

  • Red eyes
  • Muscle tremors
  • Agitation
  • Abnormal speech patterns

How does cannabis affect your driving abilities?

Think about the last time you got high. Maybe you were tired, maybe you were super energized, maybe all you wanted to do was get something to eat. THC produces intoxicating effects within your body, which automatically tells you there’s no way you should drive. CDPC’s evidence review titled Cannabis Use and Driving found that “cannabis has been shown to have to have short-term negative impacts on reaction time, motor coordination, divided attention, short-term memory and decision-making under time-pressured and informationally complex conditions.”

How long should you wait to drive after consuming cannabis?

Cannabis affects everyone differently, which means there’s no cut-and-dry answer to this question. The best answer we can give is don’t drive while you are still feeling the effects of cannabis. No matter how you consume cannabis, whether it’s smoking, vaping, or ingesting, the effects have the potential to last up to 24 hours. It’s in your best interest to avoid driving on the same day you consume cannabis. Better safe than sorry.

Can I have cannabis in the car while driving?

If you’re carrying cannabis in your car, it needs to be in a closed container out of reach of the driver and all occupants of the vehicle. Basically, keep it in the trunk.

Can I drive while taking CBD?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a clear answer on this question. Impairment laws, and even the testing protocols, seem to be focusing strictly on THC. That being said, just because CBD doesn’t produce the same intoxicating effects of THC, it still has an effect on your brain. You should avoid driving while taking CBD until you fully understand the effects it can have.

Are there different rules in my province or territory?

There might be! Every province and territory has their own set of regulations when it comes to cannabis, and while most of them have the same penalties or laws regarding impaired driving, it’s also crucial to know about the laws the directly affect you. Here is a list of where you can find each province or territories cannabis driving laws.

Alberta

British Columbia

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Newfoundland

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Quebec

Saskatchewan

Yukon Territory

This information was obtained from various government frameworks regarding cannabis impairment while driving. For further information on this topic, you should consult the relevant government websites. This section is not intended to provide legal advice. Do not rely upon it as such. We cannot guarantee that the information will be current at all times. For all legal inquiries, please make sure to consult a lawyer.


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