As Canada prepares to legalize marijuana, Ontario and other provinces are busy assembling region-specific regulations. Legalization is set to happen before the end of 2018 which means big changes are coming soon.
The legalization of marijuana will affect workplaces, private homes, public spaces and vehicle operation. The laws affect every user whether you are a recreational user or medicinal user. If you live – or drive – in Ontario, here’s what you should know about how the provincial government plans to regulate cannabis and automobile use:
According to the new laws, you will now be legally able to smoke marijuana in a private residence – including on a private balcony. However, it will continue to be illegal to consume cannabis products in your automobile, even if you own it and even if you aren’t driving it.
Disobeying the law could result in a number of penalties including immediate license suspension, fines, a criminal record or jail time. Using marijuana, in any form, while behind the wheel is considered impaired driving and is punishable by law.
If law enforcement suspects you’re driving under the influence of cannabis, they can pull you over. You can be even be pulled over at random for this.
Officers can then employ either a standard sobriety test (requiring a set of physical tests, like standing on one leg or focusing on a moving object), or use an oral fluid screening device. This device requires a saliva swab from your tongue (similar to taking a DNA sample) and reads it through a machine to determine a presence of a THC. These are pass-or-fail tests, but if you fail either, police are likely to request a blood sample, which will determine the exact level of THC in your blood and the severity of penalty.
Speaking of law enforcement, you should also be aware that the Canadian government is overhauling their impaired driving laws, which we’ve covered in more detail here. While up until now there haven’t been defined limitations set out on how much THC one is legally allowed to have in their system while driving, this will change when legalized marijuana comes into effect. There is some disagreement with this method, as the law sets out certain limits for THC levels, but the actual impairment these levels cause could vary quite a bit based on the individual. In addition, there is some thought that THC is stored in fat cells and breaks down over time, meaning their could be traces present in your blood even if it has been a while since you’ve smoked or ingested. Many people worry this could lead to unfair convictions, especially for drivers who have had already had contact with law enforcement.
Under the new laws, it will be illegal for you to have any alcohol or cannabis in your system if you are 21 or under, or drive with a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence. This policy will also apply to anyone driving a road-building machine or a vehicle that requires a Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR). Violating this rule can result in fines, vehicle suspension, or mandatory enrolment in a treatment program.
The penalties for violating these laws can cause major disruptions in your life. For some people, vehicle suspension means a loss of income, while fines could have a significant financial impact and a criminal record can result in a whole range of complications from losing custody of children to employment problems. If you’re a high-risk driver or have already had contact with law enforcement while operating a vehicle, being caught with even a small level of THC in your blood could lead to significant complications in your life, whether you’re actually impaired or not.
Make sure you’re informed, insured and protected before getting behind the wheel.
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