According to a Health Canada survey, only half of the respondents considered cannabis users in the last year felt that marijuana use affects driving.
Canada smokes more pot than any other country. With that in mind, a new study says Canadians are adamant they can handle their buzz. Health Canada says only half of the cannabis users in the last year felt it impairs their driving. 24 percent said “it depends,” while 19 percent said marijuana does not impair driving.
In addition, 39 percent of cannabis users in the last year admitted to driving within two hours of consuming cannabis at some point in their lives. Of that percentage, 40 percent say they had done it in the previous 30 days. In addition, a mere two percent reported interactions with police.
This data arrives as Ottawa battles to reduce impaired driving as marijuana is legalized. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said recently that,
“Driving while impaired by cannabis or other drugs is dangerous and illegal. The message is simple — don’t drive high.”
Health ministers believe that the results solidify the efforts to focus on public education and awareness. Over 46 million dollars over the next five years will be spent on those fronts. In contrast, the conservatives feel the findings expose the Liberal government’s failure to execute a public awareness campaign on the dangers of driving high. Michael Cooper, conservative justice critic says the campaign “barely off the ground until the fall,” and there are several “misconceptions amongst the public about the impact of marijuana use.”
No Correlation Between THC levels and Impairment
Bill C-46 states that people caught with two nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of driving could be fined up to $1,000, while those with more than five nanograms could face up to 10 years in jail.
But there is no clear correlation between the amount of THC in the blood and level of impairment. THC levels can vary widely from person to person. In addition, THC is fat soluble, thus it can stay in a user’s blood for more than a month after dosing. This means, more Canadians than ever will be facing suspect charges. Cooper says,
“some individuals who really aren’t impaired are going to be caught and other people who are impaired are going to get away with drug-impaired driving.”
California Company Creates Breathalyzer For Marijuana
As governments scramble to have legislation and education in place for legalization, entrepreneurs are looking to cash-in. A California start-up called Hound Labs is creating a breathalyzer that measures the amount of THC present in a person’s breath. The industry is in dire need of an accurate test to monitor the intoxication level of drivers. Especially with urine and hair tests failing to determine how long the drug has been in a driver’s system. Hound Labs’ device works by measuring particles of THC present in a driver’s breath in parts per trillion.
Legalization will bring about a cloudy time for cannabis users and law enforcement. To avoid unnecessary arrests and an overburdened justice system, there has to be a way to accurately monitor THC levels. If Canadians can have a couple drinks before reaching the legal 0.05 Blood Alchohol Content, cannabis users should be provided the same leniency.