More Drunk and Distracted Drivers than Cannabis Impaired Drivers

Anytime a law is changed, you have to monitor the effects of the change on society at large; this ensures that the law was changed appropriately, and enables the government to make tweaks to the law. When a change is as big as the one we saw on October 17th, 2018, when cannabis was legalized, the new laws are guaranteed to see a lot of scrutiny, from all of the relevant stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and the government itself included. We’re now more than 6 months past legalization, and the data is starting to come in. One remarkable statistic of note: it seems that there has been no significant uptick in the number of cannabis related impaired driving charges.

The largest category of cannabis related infractions that we’ve seen since legalization are related to improper storage of cannabis. This is unsurprising, as each province has slightly different rules about what is considered “proper” cannabis storage; in Manitoba, this means it must be stored in a place that is not readily accessible to anyone in the vehicle (i.e. in the trunk of the car). Improper storage is not a criminal offense; it’s not found in the Criminal Code, and thus differs from province to province.

In Manitoba, there are far more drunk or distracted drivers than cannabis impaired drivers. There’s a lot of speculation on why this might be, and in all likeliness, it’s occurring for a plethora of reasons. First, there are many more Manitobans who drink or text and drive than who smoke cannabis; almost everyone has a cellphone, and almost everyone drinks occasionally. According to a survey taken by the LGCA in 2017, about 1 in 5 Manitobans used marijuana in a one-year period. There’s a distinct possibility that this number has gone up since legalization, but it’s probably still well below the number who drink; almost 80% of Canadians drink alcohol.

There are other possible reasons why there hasn’t been an increase in cannabis related impairment numbers. Police are just as new to the post-legalization landscape as the rest of us, and thus might not have developed the appropriate techniques to spot cannabis impaired drivers; as more statistics on cannabis impaired driving come along, we’ll likely see an uptick in the arrest numbers. Additionally, new roadside drug testing equipment is constantly being tested – as of right now, there are quite a few problems with the equipment that’s available, including false positives. As the machines grow more accurate, we might see an uptick; we may also see a downtick, because of fewer false positives.

As our understanding of the effects of cannabis on society change, the laws themselves may also change. We’re already anticipating changes to the sale of edibles in the country, though the framework for those may take some time, owing to the government’s goal of protecting youth – cannabis can affect the development of young minds. As these changes continue to happen, and statistics continue to pour in, you can count on your experienced Winnipeg DUI lawyer to keep giving you information about the impact the laws might have on you, and any court cases you might have pending.