On the road and at work
New laws aim to keep roads and workplaces safe
Remember the anti-drunk-driving TV adthat shows a blurry image of a road thatgets fuzzier with each empty beer glass?
The picture may get even murkier nowthat non-medical use of cannabis is legalin Canada.
Cannabis and driving
Alcohol and cannabis together causemore impairment than either drug byitself. The Government of Alberta reportsthat nearly one-quarter of all 2013 roaddeaths involved a driver who testedpositive for both alcohol and drugs.
Cannabis use doubles the risk of beinginvolved in a crash, says research by theCanadian Centre on Substance Use andAddiction. Drivers impaired by cannabisare less able to track moving objects,or respond to more than one sourceof information or sudden changes indriving conditions.
Alberta amended its Traffic Safety Actin April 2018 to impose zero tolerancefor cannabis and illegal drugs in driversunder the graduated driver licensingprogram. Zero tolerance for alcoholalready exists for those drivers. Forother drivers, Alberta plans to put thesame limits on THC (the active psychoticingredient in cannabis) as those proposedby the federal government.
The Alberta law measures the amountof THC in the blood (see sidebar). Policeare considering the use of cognitive,saliva or urine tests on drivers who showsigns of cannabis use, such as the smellof marijuana smoke or erratic driving.
If a test shows cannabis use, then the
police can order a blood test. Based on
the results, police may charge a driver
with an offence.
Alberta police say today’s tools makeit hard to enforce traffic laws related tocannabis use.
“We definitely are not there yet,”
says Medicine Hat Police Chief Andy
McGrogan, president of the Alberta
Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP).
“We don’t know how we’re going to
McGrogan says the saliva tests are
$50 per strip, too costly for widespread
testing as is done in RIDE (Reduce
Impaired Driving Everywhere)
campaigns targeting alcohol use. “We
As well, he says the science is
not yet settled. “We don’t even know
what impairment by cannabis is.”
The AACP urged government to delay
legalization “until we get the science
McGrogan says people don’t need to
fear a sudden spike in cannabis-impaired
drivers. “I guess we’d be naive to think
there aren’t a lot of people (drivers) now
impaired by cannabis.”
Cannabis is also a threat in the
workplace. In 2009, for example, four
Toronto construction workers died when
their scaffolding collapsed. Three of them
had consumed marijuana.