On October 17, 2018, the recreational use of marijuana will become legal across Canada. What does this change mean for drivers in British Columbia? It may mean an increase in the frequency of people driving while under the influence of the intoxicating substance, THC.
But is it legal to smoke pot and drive?
Let’s be clear: despite the impending legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, it continues to be illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. In this way, marijuana is similar to alcohol. However, there are some important differences between the two substances which should not be overlooked.
Different strains of the cannabis leaf, different methods of consumption, and different regularity of use can all affect THC levels in a person’s bloodstream in the hours and days after consumption. And, unlike alcohol, there isn’t a clear relationship between impairment and the level of THC in the body. So, while a driver might have THC in their bloodstream, it will be hard to determine whether the driver was actually impaired at the time of a crash.
In British Columbia, the immediate and short-term effects of consuming marijuana are probably understood by most. However, the chemicals that enter the body as a result of consuming marijuana last for a much longer period that most people realise. Research suggests that it can remain in the bloodstream anywhere from 72 hours to 30 days after consumption. Therefore, you may not feel the effect of the chemicals, but they are still there to be detected in a blood test. If the chemicals are found in high enough quantities per volume of blood, you may be charged with operating a motor vehicle while drug-impaired.
In a civil context, such as a personal injury claim, evidence showing that you were intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle may invalidate your insurance cover with ICBC. It may also make it more difficult for you to prove that the other driver was at fault.
So, if you are involved in an accident, especially if you are injured or suspect that marijuana was a factor in the accident, it is recommended that you call the police to report the accident. That way, if the other driver was driving under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or both, then the appropriate tests can be performed by the police and records made of any findings. These records may mean the difference between you being found at fault for the accident, and having a successful claim against the other driver.