The Senate is currently considering legislation aimed at targeting the problem of impaired drivers on our roadways. It's a noble goal to be sure. However, the law has the potential to significantly impact small business, and in particular businesses that rely on driving and transportation.
Part of Bill C-46 involves the creation of a criminal law scheme that addresses the potential risks of marijuana-impaired driving. However, the bill proposes adding a new criminal offence of impaired driving at certain blood alcohol concentrations of THC, and imposing particular sentences for these offences. These are known in law as per se limits.
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.
One of the biggest questions that defence lawyers have about marijuana legalization has to do with marijuana amnesty and sentencing. Individuals who possess marijuana for personal use are still being charged in Canada. Their charges are still going to court.
Despite the fact that the Government has announced their intention to legalize marijuana, people are still leaving court with criminal records for marijuana offences, and some are receiving jail sentences.
Frankly, I find this practice appalling.
Not a day goes by when we do not read stories about the carnage that fentanyl is wreaking on our communities. The BC Court of Appeal has issued a stern warning for those who traffic in fentanyl: the starting point for sentencing is a jail sentence in the range of eighteen months. And given the evidence and attention about fentanyl deaths, it’s hard to cry foul at these guidelines.
As a result of the severe consequences of fentanyl trafficking, the BC Government has been repeatedly asked about what they are doing to address the situation. Some have suggested a pro-social approach, enhancing opportunities for rehabilitation for drug users. Others have pointed to studies that have shown that decriminalizing hard drugs actually leads to a decrease in deaths associated to those drugs. Others still think the answer is to arrest all the traffickers, round them up, and throw them in jail.
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.
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.