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Impaired Driving: What you Need to Know about Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Impaired driving is a common cause of death on the roads. When people think about impaired driving, they usually associate it with driving under the influence of alcohol; however, with the recent legalization of cannabis, people need to be just as aware about drug-driving.

Police can use saliva drug testing to determine if Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive component of cannabis used to determine blood-drug concentration, is present in your system. If it is, then the police can further necessitate a blood test to establish the amount of THC in your system and press drug-impaired driving charges.

In August 2019, the National Post released an article about the slow start to the number of drug-impaired driving charges being laid based on blood samples. According to the article, “The RCMP’s national forensic labs had also anticipated a large spike in impaired driving blood toxicology work after cannabis was legalized, but so far it has failed to materialize.” Although it may be a slow start, if you are caught driving drug-impaired, you will face stiff legal penalties.

The Motor Vehicle Act has a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs in British Columbia. If your ability to drive is affected by drugs, then you will be issued a 24 hour Roadside Prohibition. If you are found to have a concentration of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, or if you are found to have a concentration of 2.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood and 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliter of blood (combined alcohol and drug blood concentration), then you will be issued a 90 day Administrative Driving Prohibition.

The Criminal Code of Canada considers it an offence to drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. If you are charged with drug-impaired driving for having over 2 nanograms but less than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within 2 hours of driving, then there is a maximum fine of $1,000. However, if you are charged with drug-impaired driving for having 5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood within 2 hours of driving, or if you are charged with impaired driving for having a combination of 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliter of blood and 2.5 nanograms or more of THC per milliliter of blood within 2 hours of driving, then the penalty is as follows:

  • 1st offence: there is a mandatory minimum of $1,000 fine and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment
  • 2nd offence: there is a mandatory minimum of 30 days imprisonment and maximum of 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence: there is a mandatory minimum of 120 days imprisonment and maximum of 10 years imprisonment

The penalty for drug-impaired driving causing bodily harm or death is even more severe, ranging from a maximum of 2 years imprisonment less a day to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment to a maximum life imprisonment, depending on the type of criminal conviction.

In British Columbia, a conviction of drug-impaired driving can also result in ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium and Driver Penalty Point Premium.

As a team of lawyers handling ICBC claims and representing individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents, we here at STA keep up with the changing law and it is important for us that you are informed of the changes as well.  Contact us.

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