Cases of driving while stoned have skyrocketed in Canada.
Blacklock’s Reporter says the number of police charges for drug-impaired driving jumped 43% after Parliament legalized marijuana. Prosecutors had predicted the surge of cases once a 95-year criminal ban on recreational cannabis was repealed.
“Drug-impaired driving is significantly under detected,” StatsCan wrote in a report Thursday.
“Drugs may be involved as often, or maybe more often, than alcohol in impaired driving incidents.”
Analysts said 6,453 police-reported incidents of drug-impaired driving in 2019, the first full year of legalization, “a 43% increase over 2018.”
Unlike drinking and driving charges that peak in twilight hours, “the rate of drug-impaired driving varies little from one time of day to another,” said the report.
“Police reported just as many of these incidents between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., as between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m,.” wrote analysts.
Cases also took twice as long to wind through the courts as alcohol-related charges.
Crown prosecutors in 2018 testimony at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee predicted a wave of cases would clog court proceedings once marijuana was legal.
“The system is not prepared to absorb all the implications of this,” testified James Palangio, representing the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel.
“If the question is, do we have enough on the ground for the coming into force of legalization? I don’t think we do, but we’re doing the best we can.”
Statistics Canada in a 2018 report said it took courts an average 245 days to clear drug-impaired driving cases compared to 114 days for drinking and driving incidents.
“Drug-impaired cases require more appearances on average (seven) than alcohol impaired cases (five),” wrote staff
Lawyers testified cannabis legislation would result in more police charges, trials, appeals and delays in provincial courts.
“This litigation will go on for a decade,” said Michael Edelson, a criminal defence lawyer with Edelson & Friedman LLP of Ottawa.
“Previous legislative changes in this area have spawned a massive number of trials and appeals, not only challenging the constitutionality of provisions but the science associated with them.”
Parliament passed Bill C-46, setting drug impairment limits at five billionths of a gram of the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, per one millilitre of blood.
The Canadian Criminal Justice Association testified it was difficult for marijuana users to know if they were in compliance with the law, or whether the five nanogram limit adequately defined impairment for individuals based on body size and history of cannabis use.
“It depends on so many factors,” testified Howard Bebbington, then-chair of the Association’s policy review committee.
“We’re not scientists, we’re not biologists, we’re not toxicologists, but we seriously question the evidence base and suggest the government might want to delay those provisions until the science is better.”
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard