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What You Need to Know About Cannabis Laws

As cannabis stores open in Ontario, road-safety advocates are stepping up their education efforts

A key fob is shown with cannabis buds next to it

Earlier this month, Ontario's first private cannabis stores opened for business, another milestone in the legalization process. Here’s what you need to know.

The dangers of cannabis-impaired driving

What You Need to Know About Cannabis Laws 

As cannabis becomes more accessible, road-safety advocates are reminding everyone about the dangers of driving while high.

“You need to make sure that when you get behind the wheel, you’re able to function effectively,” says Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations with CAA South Central Ontario. “If you can’t, you’re putting yourself or other people at risk.”

The impact of cannabis stores

The opening of brick-and-mortar stores makes cannabis that much more accessible, and road-safety advocates want to remind everyone not to drive high. A CAA study from 2018 found that 1.9 million Ontarians have driven under the influence of cannabis at some point. Some 730,000 admitted to doing so within three months of the study.

What the laws say

While cannabis has been legal in Canada since October 2018, many motorists remain unclear about the laws governing cannabis. When it comes to driving, Ontario’s cannabis laws closely resemble those for alcohol. Not only is it illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, it’s illegal to drive with open container of cannabis in a car. The drug needs to be stored out of reach and in its original sealed packaging. (Silverstein recommends keeping it in the trunk.)

Drivers and passengers caught breaking those laws face fines starting at $175. Another important point: drivers are only allowed a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis in their vehicle.

Zero tolerance

What You Need to Know About Cannabis Laws 

Ontario also has a zero-tolerance policy for young, novice and commercial drivers. Any driver under 21 or who holds a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence is prohibited from having any cannabis in their system. If they do, they face immediate licence suspension and steep fines. The same holds true for commercial drivers with a Class A to Class F licence or operating vehicles requiring a Commercial Vehicle Operator's Registration.

Learn more

CAA has played a leading role in raising awareness about the dangers of driving while high. Silverstein says that’s part of an effort to make the province’s roads safer by reminding drivers they should be concentrating on one thing and one thing only. “People have a responsibility when they’re behind the wheel, and that’s focusing safely on the road.”

Click here to find out more about cannabis and road safety.

Image credits: iStock.com/400tmax, iStock.com/Ziviani and iStock.com/kali9