When the Liberal government decided to move toward the legalization of marijuana, it made clear that it would also be making changes to Canada’s impaired by drug driving laws. Those change came into effect on October 17, 2018. The most significant changes fall into three categories: new offences, new penalties and the introduction of a new roadside screening device and procedures to go with it.
The new drug offences are focused on those operating a motor vehicle or vessel with blood drug concentrations equal to or exceeding specified amounts. Each drug’s prohibited level is set by regulation. Marijuana and GHB are the only drugs that have a range of acceptable blood concentration limits. For all other drugs, the Regulations stipulate that any traceable amount is a hybrid offence.
In regards to marijuana, any driver who has a blood drug concentration of at least 2 nanograms (ng) of THC, but less than 5ng, in 100ml of blood, is guilty of a summary offence. Those found to have 5ng of or more, in 100ml of blood, are guilty of a hybrid offence. For the new dual alcohol and marijuana offence, it is prohibited for any driver to have 2.5ng of THC or greater combined with 50mg of alcohol, per 100ml of blood. This offence is also classified as hybrid. In regards to GHB, the new regulations set the limit at 5mg of GHB per 100ml of blood.
Unlike the old regime where the police often relied on Drug Recognition Experts, the new offences can only be proven with the results from a blood sample. A blood sample can only be taken by a qualified medical practitioner or qualified technician. Since the sample must be taken within two hours from the time of operation of the vehicle, this may present difficulties in some jurisdictions, particularly rural areas.
There are a number of technical defences to these charges and it is best to consult a qualified lawyer to determine if any apply in your case.