WATCH: With recreational cannabis legal next month, is enough being done to crack down on drugged driving? Do you know what would put you over the limit? Tess van Straaten reports.
At police roadblocks on Vancouver Island and across Canada, drugged drivers are becoming all too common and there’s fear it could get worse once recreational cannabis is legal next month.
“If anyone thinks because marijuana is being decriminalized it gives them a free license to toke up and then drive a car, drive a boat or pilot an aircraft they’re wrong.,” says road safety expert Chris Ford. “They’re absolutely wrong.”
A recent Stats Canada survey found 14 per cent of marijuana users admitted to getting behind the wheel within two hours of getting high — triple the rate of driving after drinking, according to MADD Canada.
It’s even higher for millennials with 22 per cent of cannabis users driving while impaired and a third saying they’ve ridden with a high driver.
But new BCAA ‘high driving is impaired driving’ ads are also targetting parents, suggesting they should ask for a ride home if they take marijuana.
“If you’re going to try it, just don’t drive,” a son tells his dad in one of the ads. “Text me and I’ll come get you. Mom, this applies to you, too.!”
According to the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, marijuana users are two to six times more likely to be in a crash than drivers who aren’t impaired and pot is the drug found most frequently in drivers involved in fatal crashes.
But how do you know if you’re too high to drive? And how long should you wait before getting behind the wheel?
“I think the hard thing for a lot of people is to figure out is at what point are you impaired,” says Foord. “It’s probably not as easy with marijuana, with different amounts of THC, and whatever you happen to be smoking, ingesting.”
A roadside saliva drug test called the Dräger 5000 is now approved in Canada for police to test for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. But many local police forces don’t yet have the device.
“It’s going to take months and maybe a year or more for many of the agencies to get their hands on those but officers have been trained in detecting impaired drivers,” Foord says.
There’s also concern the saliva test can’t determine the level of impairment — and isn’t as reliable as an alcohol breathalyzer.
THC can also remain in a person’s system for days or even weeks after intoxication so until the smoke settles, experts say it’s always safer to get a ride.