November 20, 2018, Canada
In the lead up to blanket legalization in Canada, the debates in public and official domains were revolving around the on-ground implementation of the strain. Proponents were establishing that it was the step in the right direction while opponents were pointing the unwanted repercussions of the measure.
There was one talking point on which both parties agreed and shared their concern i.e. the spike in drug-impaired driving post-legalization. For that matter, Canadian police had some serious reservations on the approval of nationwide legalization on the same date. The Canadian government also doled out millions of dollars from the national exchequer for devising drug awareness programs, officer training and for buying expensive roadside drug testing kits. It has been one month since the legalization of adult-use marijuana in Canada and early data collection by the CBD suggests that there is no spike in the instances of cannabis-impaired driving.
The worry that the blanket legalization will lead to an uptick in the cases of impaired driving has its merits. When it comes to impaired driving, Canada’s track record is not quite exemplary. According to the statistics, 34 percent of all annual traffic casualties are alcohol-related. More importantly, the decades of awareness campaigns have also failed in making an impact.
This poor history actually forced the stakeholder to overstate the problem that had yet to transpire. A road safety group even carried out a highway billboard campaign last year to highlight the perils of cannabis-impaired driving.
On the official front, Canadian police would ring the alarm time and again. The department lamented many times that they had not enough time to work out law enforcement measures pertaining to cannabis legalization. The police rolled out an online course for police officers all across the country to adapt to cannabis legalization. The government, on the other hand, also announced a $62.5 million five-year package to deal with drug-impaired driving.
Just before the promulgation date of October 17, the attorney general also approved a roadside cannabis drug test formulated by a German Company. The test was taken up because it’s simple and gives instant results. During the same time, the Canadian legislature also passed the bill to penalize the people driving under the influence of cannabis.
However, the latest figures suggest that officials might have over-anticipated the implications of cannabis legalization. Some noteworthy points from CBC data are as follow:
- Since the blanket legalization, Manitoba police have only issued three marijuana-impaired charges against 50 alcohol-impaired driving charges.
- Vancouver Police has dealt with 18 cannabis-related violations since October 17, but they are not related to driving. All these charges entail open weed containers and smoking in the vehicle.
- Toronto has shown a significant spike in the instances of impaired driving since last year, but the data doesn’t mention the intoxicant involved.
- Quebec, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia have also experienced a decline in the drug-impaired driving arrests as compared to last year.
It might be too soon to suggest that legalization hasn’t any impact on the issue of impaired driving. Nonetheless, the beginning looks encouraging.