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Police Across Canada Report No Rise in Impaired Driving’ Following Cannabis Legalization

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There hasn’t been a spike in high drivers since Canada legalized recreational cannabis last month, but the number of drug-impaired drivers is still very high, according to the latest statistics.

A new survey from the Government of Canada on cannabis consumption trends found that 39 percent of cannabis consumers have driven high. And almost half of those drivers (43 percent) have gotten behind the wheel in the last month while they were stoned. Although those numbers are quite high, it’s worth noting that these stats are unchanged from 2017,” which means there has been no appreciable increase in impaired diving since Canada legalized recreational cannabis a little over a month ago. And police agencies across the country are attesting to that.

In our department, there’s certainly no rise in impaired driving by [marijuana],” Sgt. Joe Cantelo of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force in New Brunswick told Global News.

Police forces contacted by Global in Vancouver, Regina, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Nova Scotia, and PEI all had similar responses, saying they haven’t noticed any upticks either.

Those statistics and statements counter a popular argument among opponents of cannabis reform, who insist that the rates of drug-impaired driving will spike in the wake of legalization. So the government survey suggests those arguments are actually baseless fear tactics.

Still, Andrew Murie — CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada — says there is more that can be done to reduce what are still relatively high levels of impaired driving.

The problem we were having, especially with young people with cannabis, is they didn’t see cannabis as dangerous, [we] didn’t see them upholding the same type of behaviors they would around alcohol,” he said. We had a problem of perception that it’s less dangerous and that’s the biggest battle we’re fighting right now.”

As of right now, there aren’t really any best practices that cannabis consumers can refer to on smoking and driving. Groups like the Canadian Automobile Association are working on research that should help clarify these questions, but we just don’t have the answers yet. At the very least you’re going to want to wait a few hours before getting behind the wheel after smoking a joint, and likely quite a bit longer if you consume cannabis-infused edibles. So when in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and support city transit by grabbing the bus.

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