Clearing the air on cannabis, driving and the holidays

VICTORIA – Cannabis is now legal – but if you choose to use, don’t drive.

You’ve probably heard this message in a new ad from government and ICBC. As public safety minister, I want you to understand why it’s vital to take it seriously. I also hope you’ll talk to your loved ones – of all ages. In a roadside survey conducted last spring, the number of participating drivers who tested positive for drugs was up 15 per cent from 2012, with more than two thirds of those drivers testing positive for cannabis. And drug use was most prevalent among those aged 25 and under, and over 55.

With the first holiday season of legal cannabis upon us, some additional concerns have emerged: a new survey indicates many people think it’s okay to drive after smoking a joint and many will celebrate with both alcohol and cannabis. So let’s clear the air:

* Cannabis reduces your ability to drive safely. Research shows crash risk increases with cannabis consumption and can be significantly greater if your blood drug concentration is over the Criminal Code limit. Drinking alcohol compounds the impairing effect of even a small amount of cannabis.

* The police are ready. Drug-affected driving isn’t new. Police have the tools and skills necessary to detect drivers who are unsafe due to any kind of impairment and take them off the road. If anything, the additional police training that has accompanied legalization has increased their ability to stop drug-affected drivers.

* The police are out there. Counterattack is underway now and next year, funding for enhanced police enforcement will rise dramatically.

* Mandatory alcohol screening is legal in Canada beginning Dec. 18, 2018. If you’re affected by alcohol, or any substance, and driving, expect greater scrutiny.

* The penalties are serious. Beyond recent changes to the Criminal Code, we’re toughening provincial sanctions. On Oct. 17, 2018, we extended B.C.’s zero- tolerance restriction for the presence of alcohol to cover the presence of specific drugs, such as THC and cocaine, for new drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP). And in spring 2019, we’ll provide police with more tools to remove drug-affected drivers from the road for 90 days – a much more serious sanction than the existing 24-hour driving prohibition.

* You can take it with you – but there are rules about transporting cannabis in a vehicle. You’re probably aware that nobody is allowed to have open alcohol or consume it in a motor vehicle. The same goes for medical and non-medical cannabis. Cannabis in its original, sealed packaging can be stored anywhere in a vehicle. But if it’s unsealed, it has to be out of reach of the driver and passengers – for example, in the trunk.

For more details, I encourage you to visit: www.getcannabisclarity.ca In recent years, the number of lives lost in alcohol-related crashes has decreased. Together, our government and police agencies are determined to preserve and build on these life-saving gains in a legal cannabis environment.

However you choose to celebrate this season, plan ahead for a safe ride home – with a friend, by cab or via a program like Operation Red Nose, which has volunteers in 19 B.C. communities ready to drive you home if you feel unfit to do so for any reason. Please help us ensure safe and happy holidays for everyone.

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