In the spirit of reefer madness and fear-mongering, the decision by the Canadian Senate to back down from their amendments to marijuana legalization has already sparked debate about carange on our roadways. But does the effective legalization of marijuana in Canada pose any realistic risk?
Frankly, that's doubtful.
This is not another article about the science behind marijuana and driving impairment. What it is instead is a look into Canada's impaired driving legislation that already exists, to see how there is already an effective enforcement scheme set up in our existing laws. What the Federal Government is proposing in Bill C-46 for an overhaul of impaired driving legislation is just not necessary.
And here's why.
Since the move toward legalization of recreational marijuana began after the last federal election, a lot of discussion has taken place surrounding marijuana-impaired driving. What has never been clear throughout all this discussion is what the existing state of the law is when it comes to cannabis impairment and driving. This has not been assisted by the introduction of Bill C-46, which creates separate offences involving marijuana and driving.
This post breaks down marijuana impaired driving as it currently stands in British Columbia and under federal criminal law.
Impaired driving cases are highly complex and technical. Understanding the issues that arise in these cases requires a strong level of knowledge in the law, Charter rights and litigation, and the scientific underpinning of impaired driving charges. My goal as a driving lawyer with a focus in impaired driving cases is to have the best level of knowledge possible about all of these issues.
Many lawyers do not take steps to appreciate or understand the complex science that goes into impaired driving cases. Faced with an instrument like the one depicted above, they would struggle to identify what it is. It's a liquid chromatography mass spectrometry instrument, for the record. And when it comes to operating the instrument and interpreting and understanding the results, many lawyers would similarly be at a loss.
I try to go the extra mile for my clients so that I can easily spot the important issues.
In last week's episode of Driving Law with Kyla Lee, I sat down with Roy Ho of Acumen Law Corporation to talk about ICBC and insurance breach investigations. In particular, Roy and I discussed how your insurance is affected by impaired driving charges and how ICBC will breach insurance coverage after an impaired driving incident. For anyone affected by an impaired driving case involving an accident, this episode is a must-listen to know whether ICBC will provide coverage in a DUI accident.
In the second half of the episode, Roy and I also discuss the changes to British Columbia's Insurance Vehicle Act and coverage for minor injury claims.
Don't forget as well to vote for me in Canadian Lawyer Magazine's Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers survey.
On the third episode of Driving Law with Kyla Lee, I talk to Grant Gotgettreu, a former West Vancouver Police Department Corporal and Integrated Road Safety Unit Corporal about speed estimation, and speed measurement using laser and radar. Grant is known for his history of laser and radar speed enforcement and his unbeaten record of issuing excessive speeding tickets. We also play a hilarious, albeit vulgar, recording of Grant interacting with one particularly unimpressed driver whose car is being impounded. (Free legal advice: don't do that.)
In the second half of the episode, I speak with Paul Doroshenko also of Acumen Law Corporation about the changes to the alcohol-impaired driving laws being quietly added in with the marijuana amendments.
This morning, the Provincial Government finally unveiled its regulatory framework for dealing with the issue of marijuana-impaired driving, come legalization of recreational cannabis. The purpose of this blog post is to explain the changes to BC’s Motor Vehicle Act that are being proposed to deal with cannabis legalization. And, as usual, to offer my opinion on why these changes are not appropriate or effective.
The biggest hint to date about what British Columbia’s drug-impaired driving scheme is going to look like is finally here. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth was quoted in The Province today as saying that a legislative scheme not unlike the Immediate Roadside Prohibition scheme might soon become a reality.
It’s nice to know he’s creating a new prohibition scheme when the one that he criticized while in opposition remains unrepaired.
But what the article in The Province hints at is that roadside testing will be done by way of saliva testing. And this is inherently problematic.
Over the last several months, numerous articles have been posted discussing the development of a marijuana breathalyzer. The theory is that through the miracle of science (or a complex technical formula the explanation of which is not relevant to this blog post) a sample of a person's breath will reveal the concentration of marijuana in their bloodstream. This is similar to alcohol breathalyzers, though the process by which the sample is analyzed and the marijuana detected is vastly different.
Many groups like MADD Canada have pushed for a mechanism of roadside testing for drivers suspected of being impaired by drugs. They see the development of these tools as a victory in the battle against impaired driving. But will a marijuana breathalyzer really help anything?
I say no.
I deal with a fair number of 24-Hour Prohibitions for Drugs in the course of my work. These types of prohibition are dangerous, in my opinion, because they can happen to anyone at any time or place on a roadway. They also involve greater consequences than what is told to the driver at the time the prohibition is issued. And disputing them is a complex and often expensive process, with results that do not really address the concerns a dispute process should. I've previously written about drug-impaired driving laws in Canada, and promised that I would follow up with more information about the 24-Hour for Drugs dispute process.
Between the race to develop a marijuana "breathalyzer" and the legalization of marijuana in U.S. border states like Colorado and Washington, there has been a great deal of discussion about drug impaired driving law in British Columbia and Canada. Many groups such as MADD Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse have been putting pressure on government to establish "per se" limits for drugs in the body. But will this really deal with the problem of drug-impaired driving? And is drug-impaired driving really a problem in Canada?
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer with a focus on impaired driving, marijuana legalization and related issues, and immediate roadside prohibition defence.