Government of Canada invests in more research to study effects of cannabis on drivers
July 3, 2018
Public Safety Canada
Drug-impaired driving has been on the rise since police-reported data became available in 2009, and it is a major contributor to fatal road crashes in Canada. According to a 2017 Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction-led study, there is substantial evidence indicating that driving after cannabis-use increases collision risk significantly (Estimating the Harms and Costs of Cannabis-Attributable Collisions in the Canadian Provinces, 2017). On June 21, 2018 the Government of Canada enacted three new offences of being over a prohibited blood drug concentration within two hours of driving. The prohibited levels are set by regulation to permit the Government to respond more quickly to scientific advances. These offences are based on the best scientific information available, however, more can to be done to continue to gather more evidence to better understand how cannabis impacts drivers.
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, today announced that Public Safety Canada is providing $919,065 over three years to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to help advance scientific knowledge on the impacts of cannabis on drivers ranging in age from 19 to 45.
This study will use simulated driving to help:
- Explore how increased levels of THC (the main active ingredient in cannabis) in blood and oral fluid can impact a driver, including his or her ability to anticipate hazards; level of risk-taking behaviour; reaction time; and position and speed on the road.
- Identify differences that may exist between the ages and genders of drivers, THC levels and driving impairment.
The results of the study will further inform Government of Canada’s policy on cannabis and driving, and public education and awareness material about the dangers of drug-impaired driving. The study will be completed by June 2020.
“Drug-impairment is a serious concern today – it’s a major contributor to fatal road crashes. To combat this potential deadly risk, the government is investing in new training and new tools for law enforcement, strengthening our laws and raising awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired by cannabis. We are also investing in new research to help better understand how cannabis impacts drivers and inform our work to keep our roads safe.”
- The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
“While we have known for a long time that cannabis use affects our ability to drive, more in-depth and targeted knowledge would further contribute to our understanding of the impact of cannabis on drivers.”
- Professor Bruna Brands, Research Scientist, Health Canada and Collaborating Scientist, CAMH
“One of the key recommendations of the CAMH Cannabis Policy Framework is the need to develop a comprehensive strategy to prevent cannabis-impaired driving. This research is an important component of an evidence-informed approach to prevention, education and enforcement.”
- Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO, CAMH
Drug-impaired driving is illegal in Canada and will remain illegal after cannabis is legalized and regulated.
To strengthen the criminal law’s response to drug-impaired driving in advance of cannabis legalization, the Government introduced and passed former Bill C-46. The legislation came into force on June 21, 2018 and creates new offences of being over a prohibited blood drug concentration set by regulation to permit the Government to respond more quickly to scientific advances.
The number and rate for almost all drug-impaired driving violations increased in 2016. In total there were 3,098 drug-impaired driving violations in 2016, 343 more than the previous year. (Statistics Canada, Juristat, July 24, 2017)
Among Canadians who have used cannabis, 28 per cent reported having operated a vehicle while under the influence. (Baseline Survey on Awareness, Knowledge and Behaviour Associated with Recreational Use of Marijuana - Final Report, Submitted to Health Canada, EKOS RESEARCH ASSOCIATES INC. September 2, 2016)
Law enforcement officers are trained to detect drug-impaired driving using Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluation; and enforce drug-impaired driving laws.
Since July 2008, under the Criminal Code, police can demand roadside checks and assessments if they suspect a driver has drugs in their body. Failure to comply with the demand may result in criminal charges.
The new legislation enables law enforcement to demand a sample of oral fluid from drivers, on approved drug screening equipment, if they suspect the driver has drugs in their body.
- Public Opinion Research on Drug-Impaired Driving, EKOS Research Associates Inc., 2017
- Marijuana Use Among Drivers in Canada, 2000-2014. Traffic Injury Research Foundation, December 2017.
- Baseline Survey on Awareness, Knowledge and Behaviour Associated with Recreational Use of Marijuana - Final Report (2016)
Senior Advisor for Communications
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Public Safety Canada
CAMH Senior Media Relations Specialist
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