Cannabis is now legal to use, but it’s not legal or safe for anyone on the road to drive while impaired by it, reminds Saskatchewan RCMP.
The admonition comes as they ramp up public awareness efforts for National Impaired Driving Prevention Week.
Last year, 289 drivers were taken off the road by police officers for suspected driving while impaired by drugs. Ninety-five of these drivers to date have been charged criminally, which may increase as toxicology results are obtained following further investigation, according to a Saskatchewan RCMP release.
Police say Saskatchewan RCMP officers now have access to roadside oral fluid devices, a small, handheld machine used to detect cannabis use by drivers. They add officers have a zero tolerance for any kind of impaired driving and that includes cannabis impairment.
Cannabis detection methods
An RCMP officer can request the driver provide a sample of their oral fluid, the sample is then inserted into the roadside oral fluid device and in as quickly as four minutes, it tells the officer if the person has smoked, vaped or ingested cannabis (THC) recently.
According to the RCMP, if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that cannabis (or any type of drug), is a factor in an impaired driving investigation they can demand the driver get a blood test or call out a drug recognition evaluator to assess the driver. These officers are specially trained to use a 12-step process which determines whether a driver is impaired and if so, by what category of drug.
Penalties for drug-impaired driving
If someone is convicted of driving while impaired by drugs, they will have a criminal record, pay a minimum fine of $1,000 and have their licence suspended for a minimum of one year. The RCMP release continues that fines are higher and suspensions are longer for subsequent offences. If an officer detects that a driver has recently used cannabis (THC) – regardless if it has impaired them or not –their driver’s license will be suspended and the vehicle they are driving impounded for 72 hours.
Mixing cannabis edibles and alcohol can be unpredictable
If people are using cannabis, and considering driving, police say to keep the following in mind:
- The legalization of cannabis has provided users more ways to consume the drug, including edibles.
- Edibles can take a long time to kick in. The effects can last several hours.
- That needs to be considered before deciding to drive.
- If you’re mixing drinks and cannabis, even a small amount of alcohol can enhance the drug’s impairing effects.
- Mixing cannabis, alcohol, or any other kind of drug including medically prescribed drugs may alter your ability to safely drive. You need to make alternate travel plans.
Police remind people that they have zero tolerance for impairment and having more tools like the roadside oral fluid devices will help in their efforts to keep the roads safe.
In Canada, National Impaired Driving Prevention Week is observed the third week of March each year.