Victoria-area driver escapes drug-driving penalty after flicking lit joint from car window

WatchA driver who flicked a lit joint out of his car window Monday morning during routine traffic enforcement is facing hefty fines. Saanich Police stopped him speeding through a playground zone. But as Mary Griffin reports, the driver is not facing a penalty for impaired driving

During routine speed enforcement along the 4900 block of Cordova Bay Road Monday morning right by a playground, a Saanich police officer stopped a speeding driver.

As the driver came to a stop, he flicked a lit cannabis butt out the window. The officer issued a ticket for three violations.

Saanich Police Sgt. Julie Fast said the driver did not get a penalty for the cannabis.

“The officer was able to confirm that the driver was not impaired. So that kind of investigation, that’s a criminal code investigation that would have been pursued had he been impaired. In this case, he was not impaired and the officer was satisfied with that,” Fast said.

The department tweeted out the ticket. The driver slapped with three violations; a $575 fine for dopping the lit joint, a $253 fine for speeding in a playground zone, and another $109 for failure to update his address. But for smoking weed while driving? Nothing.

Criminal defence lawyer Sarah Leamon said that this situation doesn’t send a strong message in terms of deterrents.

“I think it’s not sending a very strong message of deterrents to the public. I think the message that it’s sending is that police officers in this province are not very inclined to engage in criminal investigations and to lay criminal charges in relation to cannabis-impaired driving behaviours,” Leamon said.

The Saanich Police officer who issued the ticket is a “Drug Recognition Expert”, and determined the driver was not impaired, so didn’t charge him with a criminal code offence.

“If we approach a driver, regardless if there has been a beer bottle tossed out of a car, or a joint that’s been tossed out of a car, we have to be able to prove impairment. And the simple act of throwing a cannabis butt out of a window of a car does not constitute impairment,” Fast said.

The driver is paying almost $1,000 in fines for smoking a joint while operating a motor vehicle. A driver charged and convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada for impaired driving faces a minimum $1,000 fine and potential jail time.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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