As cannabis officially became legal on Oct. 17, all vehicle owners are reminded that taking cannabis and driving could lead to serious criminal charges and a major hit to your driving record. According to the Alberta government’s website, all drivers suspected of being criminally impaired through taking cannabis and driving will face an immediate 90-day suspension of their licence and an instant three-day seizure of their vehicle. They will also be required to take part in a one-year ignition interlock program as well as mandatory remedial education.
Levels of impairment will be measured by blood-to-drug concentration limits. More than two and less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood is a summary charge that carries a maximum federal criminal penalty of up to a $1,000 fine. Five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood and above is an indictable offence that, if convicted, will result in a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offense, a mandatory 30 days imprisonment for a second offense and mandatory 120 days in jail for a third offense.
Remember, mixing cannabis and alcohol is not a good idea as it is difficult to predict how to two will react together. Being caught driving under the influence of both cannabis and alcohol carries severe penalties as well. It is an indictable offense to have 2.5 nanograms per millilitre or more of blood combined with 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres or more of alcohol in your system. Penalties increase for drivers at high levels of impairment who injure or kill while operating a vehicle, as well as for repeat offenders.
In July, the federal government approved a roadside test that will allow police officers to swab the inside of suspected drivers’ cheeks to check for THC.
If you have a prescription to use cannabis, consult your doctor or a medical professional to help you determine what the correct dosage is so that you do not go over the two nanogram limit. For everyone else, the best approach is to never take cannabis and get behind the wheel.
Cannabis can’t be within reach of anyone in your vehicle when you are driving, so likely the safest place for it is in your trunk. It must also be in secured, closed packaging.
Cannabis and Driving With a Graduated License
There will be zero-tolerance for cannabis or any illegal drugs in the systems of graduated drivers licence (GDL) vehicle operators. There is already zero tolerance for alcohol. Penalties are high for GDL drivers who are found to have violated the law. Driving under the influence of cannabis is considered the same as driving under the influence of alcohol, and can seriously jeopardize chances of becoming fully licenced. If found to have any alcohol or drugs in their systems, GDL drivers will be subject to an immediate 30-day licence suspension, a seven-day seizure of their vehicle and be required to remain in the GDL program for two years, with at least one year of suspension-free driving.
Does Taking Cannabis Affect My Driving?
The Canadian Centre of Substance Use and Addiction states that the risk of being involved in a collision doubles when under the influence of cannabis and driving. Studies have shown depleted performance levels in:
- Reaction time
- Visual function
- Short-term memory
Drivers under the influence of cannabis have also been observed to weave within lanes, show variable following distances, and increase their speed. Also compromised is the ability to handle unexpected occurrences, such as having to brake quickly for an unexpected pedestrian. These signifiers tend to become much worse when cannabis is combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Impaired Driving and Your Car Insurance
Not only does an impaired driving conviction result in a criminal record, it also results in difficulty getting car insurance in Alberta. Drivers who have been convicted of serious offences are considered “high risk,” making car insurance coverage prohibitively expensive for many.
If you are considered a high-risk driver, you may find it difficult to purchase insurance directly from an insurance company. In that situation, your best bet is to work with an independent Alberta insurance broker like us at Lane’s, who have the ability to work with multiple companies and shop around for coverage on your behalf.
Brokers may be able to negotiate coverage that may not otherwise have been offered to you. Insurance brokers work for you, not for insurance companies, so both you and your broker have shared interests when it comes to finding you the best car insurance available. Contact us at 403.264.8171 today.