Marijuana Legalization, Drug Offences, and Calgary DUIs

Prime Minister Trudeau's announcement that he will see the recreational use of marijuana throughout Canada as early as 2017 was met with a great deal of of uproar by proponents and opponents alike.

Many view the issue purely in terms of civil liberties, arguing that they should be allowed to ingest whatever substances they wish into their own bodies. Others point out that in relation to other already-legal substances such as tobacco and alcohol, marijuana appears to be much safer in terms of both personal and public health, and many have pointed to the clear ineffectiveness of anti-drug laws on the availability and use of controlled substances.

On the other hand, some have argued that marijuana legalization will lead to increased usage rates, increased use amongst younger Canadians, and a potential increase in impaired drivers. This last issue is of key importance from a legal perspective, here in Calgary as much as anywhere in Canada, due to the lack of clarity and understanding many citizens and even many law enforcement officers have regarding the issue.

There may even be some Calgary defence lawyers who don't fully understand the relationship between legalized marijuana and impaired driving/DUI charges.

The fact is, it's complex, and there are many unknowns that may take years to sort out. What the details of any eventual marijuana legalization law may look like is purely a matter of conjecture, and even after the law is passed there are likely to be some key court cases that help clarify or even adjust the law. In the meantime, there's one thing anyone tempted by the idea of legalized marijuana needs to be aware of.

Driving While High Will ALWAYS Be Illegal

Drinking is legal, but driving on Calgary's roads when you're intoxicated by alcohol certainly isn't. Anyone expecting the situation to be different with marijuana is going to be in for a big surprise.

While marijuana's impact on driving abilities hasn't been extensively studied, the substance is known to slow reaction times, reduce cognitive abilities, and impair judgement. In short, being intoxicated by marijuana makes you a more dangerous driver, something that shouldn't come as a surprise. DUI laws are all about public safety, so impaired driving—no matter what substance the impairment is caused by, will be illegal as long as public safety is a public concern.

The lack of study makes it difficult for law enforcement officers to determine marijuana intoxication using any sort of objective measurement, though. Unlike blood alcohol content (BAC) as an indicator of alcohol intoxication, measurements for marijuana in the bloodstream are less accurate and less predictive of actual intoxication. This means that law enforcement in Calgary and throughout Canada are likely to have a great deal of discretion in determining when a driver is "intoxicated" by marijuana.

The best bet? If you are feeling the effects of marijuana at all, or if you have ingested any marijuana in the past few hours, don't get behind the wheel of a car. It will keep you and others safe physically, and will help protect you legally, as well.

Contacting a Calgary DUI and Drug Defence Lawyer

If you or a family member has been charged with a marijuana-related DUI, or with any other impaired driving or drug-related charge in the Greater Calgary area, you're entitled to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer. For a free initial consultation, please contact me today.