Has the legalization of marijuana in Canada led to an increase in motor-vehicle accidents?
When cannabis was legalized in Canada in 2018, there was a great debate on whether easier access to the drug would lead to a multitude of problems such as increased usage among youth, addiction issues and how to prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel when under the influence of marijuana.
Interestingly, the data shows that there has been only a moderate increase in usage with its legalization. A 2020 Government of Canada report revealed 27% of participants reported having used cannabis in the past year, up from 22% in 2017. Has this small uptick in use had any effect on impaired driving cases involving marijuana? The research suggests a causal connection is less than clear.
Recently published research by Dr. Jeremy Brubacher from the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that since legalization, more Canadians are choosing to drive after using cannabis. Conducted from 2013 to 2020, the study included more than 4,300 injured drivers who were treated at trauma centers in B.C. It found that since legalization, the number of drivers with blood THC concentrations above the legal driving limit (2 nanograms/ml) who were injured in collisions, rose to 8.6% compared to 3.8% before legalization.
In contrast, another study conducted by UBC professor Russell Callaghan, examined the number of emergency room visits in Ontario and Alberta related to cannabis-impaired driving. The results of Callaghan’s study found that there was no evidence showing significant changes related to the legalization of cannabis, and the weekly number of cannabis-related traffic injuries.
Research has also been done to investigate exactly how marijuana can affect someone who is getting behind the wheel. Previous research conducted by Dr. Brubacher showed that the risk of a motor vehicle accident only increases in those with levels above five nanograms/ml.
While new data and information about the correlation between cannabis use and impaired driving accidents are emerging all the time, common sense suggests that much like alcohol, driving while under the influence of any substance may have consequences.
Despite those that may say that marijuana use while driving does not impair their abilities, there remain legal consequences to driving under the influence. Following legalization, the federal government amended the Criminal Code, which gives police more power to test drivers for drugs if they suspect the person to be intoxicated or have committed a drug-impaired driving offence. Many provinces also introduced new penalties, such as harsher fines and driver license suspension, to deter cannabis-impaired driving.
If someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident through the fault of a driver who is under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or other drugs, it is important to retain a lawyer experienced in handling these types of cases as there can be insurance policy violations and complexities with what monetary compensation is available. At Singer Katz, we will stick with you every step of the way, from the beginning of your case to the end, and will work tirelessly to get you the justice you deserve, because for us, it’s personal.