Marijuana: Important Information for Ontario Drivers

On October 17, 2018, marijuana officially became legal for recreational use in Canada.

To protect our roads, the Ontario government has also passed a new set of laws for Ontario drivers. The new laws expand the existing Impaired Driving laws across the province.

Here is what Ontario Drivers need to know:

Just like alcohol, you can’t use marijuana in your vehicle

According to the new laws, you are now legally able to smoke marijuana in a private residence – including on a private balcony. However, just like alcohol, it continues 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.

Bill C-46: You can now be pulled over at random

A significant & controversial change to Canada’s impaired driving law is being introduced in December, 2018. Under Bill C-46, Ontario police can now pull over drivers and request a saliva test if there is reasonable suspicion of marijuana impairment. Conversely, breathalyzer tests for alcohol impairment can now be requested without reasonable suspicion. However, even if you are sober, declining the test is a criminal offence.

New Roadside Saliva Tests for Marijuana

When it comes to testing, Ontario is planning to equip officers with new saliva tests that can be used roadside. The new device requires a saliva swab from your tongue, similarly to taking a DNA sample. The sample is read through a machine to determine a presence of a THC. If you fail the test, police are likely to request a blood sample, which will determine the exact level of THC in your blood and the severity of penalty.

THC Level Guidelines & Penalties

According to an article in the National Post, the Canadian government has suggested the following guidelines. However, the province of Ontario may add additional penalties:

  • A THC level between 2 and 5 nanograms per millilitre of blood would be a lower-level offence with a fine of up to $1000;
  • A THC level above 5 nanograms would come with the same penalties as an alcohol-impaired driving conviction, including mandatory minimum penalties of a $1000 fine on a first offence, 30 days imprisonment on a second offence and 120 days imprisonment on a third offence;
  • A mixture of a THC level above 2.5 nanograms and a blood alcohol concentration above 50 mg per 100 mL would have the same penalties as above.

In addition to these recommendations, there is a zero tolerance policy for new drivers.

Don’t Take the Risk 

As you can imagine, it could be difficult to sufficiently predict the amount of THC in your blood. Each person is affected differently and the THC levels in marijuana are not easy to predict.

Fines can have a significant financial impact and even lead to a criminal record. Our advice? Avoid using THC before driving at all times.

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