Store Locator

What You Need to Know About Cannabis This Holiday Season

New impaired-driving laws are in effect to keep our roads safe

Police lights are visible through the rear window of a woman's car

For many people, the legalization of recreational cannabis has given rise to questions and concerns around the safety of our roads. We take these concerns very seriously at CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO). It’s why we support efforts to keep Ontario residents informed about the facts, dispel the myths and promote an understanding of the laws that impact every driver. These efforts are especially critical as we approach the first holiday season post-legalization.

Just the facts

By now, everyone should know that driving under the influence is not only dangerous, but illegal. While the impairing effects of alcohol are clear, few realize the impact of cannabis on their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

According to a recent Ipsos study CAA commissioned, 48 per cent of current cannabis users (that is, people who have used cannabis in the past 3 months), have driven while high. “Too many people are choosing to drive under the influence, and that needs to change,” says Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations at CAA SCO.

Here’s the thing: both alcohol and cannabis affect attention span, judgment, motor skills, reaction time, decision-making and coordination. Though you may feel like you can drive while high, it doesn’t mean you can.

Poly-users make two

Of particular interest to research and educational efforts is the poly-user: a person who uses cannabis and drinks alcohol simultaneously, typically at social gatherings, which are especially common during the holiday season.

The Ipsos study found that among the current cannabis users who have driven under the influence of cannabis, one in four have also driven under the influence of both cannabis and alcohol. It’s a serious issue, as studies demonstrate that the risk of a crash drastically increases for poly-users.

The message is clear, says Silverstein. “If you are going to consume alcohol or cannabis, don’t get behind the wheel.”

Enforcing the law

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a poly-user found with 2.5 nanograms (ng) or more of THC and 50 mg of alcohol in their blood faces a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. Even though 50 mg is technically not over the criminal level of alcohol, it’s illegal in combination with cannabis.

The cannabis-only user should be mindful, too. If found with five or more ng of THC (or any detectable drug) in their blood, drivers face a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for the first offence alone.

In Ontario, drivers found to be impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol face an immediate licence suspension, mandatory remedial education and other consequences.

And let’s not forget that Ontario has implemented a zero-tolerance approach for young (21 and under) and novice drivers (G1, G2, M1 and M2 licences), as well as commercial vehicle drivers. That means drivers in those categories found with even a trace amount of cannabis in their system face immediate penalties.

Campaigns in force

To keep our roads safe, police services across the province have been running their annual Festive R.I.D.E. campaign, setting up spot checks in commuting areas to ensure drivers are sober. CAA is proud to partner with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and Arrive Alive Drive Sober in promoting safe and sober driving during this holiday season.

Remember: however you choose to celebrate, plan for a safe ride home.

Want to know more about safe driving?

For more information on CAA’s road safety efforts, visit caasco.com/cannabis.

Image credit: iStock.com/LukaTDB