Is It Okay for Medical Marijuana Users to Smoke and Then Drive?

As the federal government continues to work towards the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, there has been some changes to the Criminal Code in regards to impaired driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The changes in the law are being implemented in order to ensure the Criminal Code has offenses for drug impairments prior to the actual legalization of marijuana. The reason our government is taking this approach is based upon information on what many of the states in the U.S. did after they legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

For instance, in Washington it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive while under the influence of marijuana. The state opted to expand its “zero tolerance” alcohol policy for underage drinkers to marijuana.

So if someone under the age of 21 is stopped and it is determined they are impaired by marijuana, they are charged. Plus, Washington requires a person to be 21 in order to legally purchase and smoke pot for recreational purposes.

Here in Toronto, medical marijuana users could potentially be charged with impaired driving under the influence of drugs. The offence carries with it the same consequences, if one was convicted of impaired driving under the influence of alcohol.

This means guilty persons could see minimum penalties of $1,000 and up to life in prison for repeat offenders, or in cases where someone was killed or injured by the defendant due to their drug impairment.

Currently, if one is stopped by the police, they can conduct a roadside impairment evaluation. If they suspect someone is indeed impaired, then they may request the driver to complete different types of tests. To screen for drug impairment, police have started using saliva tests roadside.

If the saliva test is positive, then they will arrest you and place you into custody. Once in custody, they should perform a more comprehensive test, like a blood test, to determine the actual types and amounts of drugs in the body.

Additionally, there is debate about how much marijuana one could smoke and not be considered impaired under the law. Part of the debate has to do with how the TCH in marijuana affects a person. If they inhale deeply, hold their breath and only take a few puffs, they could potentially be impaired.

On the other hand, someone that doesn’t inhale as deeply could smoke an entire joint and still be perfectly fine to drive. For now, the laws do not distinguish between impaired by marijuana or other drugs, only between drugs and alcohol.

Until further changes are made to laws, the best advice is if you are a medical marijuana user don’t drive or get a designated driver. If you were stopped by the police and charged for impairment under drugs or alcohol, please feel free to contact me, Toronto criminal defence lawyer, Jeff Hershberg at 416-428-7360 now to schedule a consultation.