On April 13, the Canadian government introduced legislation that, if it’s approved by Parliament and receives Royal Assent, would make it legal to buy, sell, and smoke marijuana.
The government’s plan is to regulate and restrict access to cannabis as it does with cigarettes and alcohol, including introducing a zero-tolerance approach to dealing with intoxicated drivers.
“Today, we are following through on our commitment to … legalize … cannabis and to create new laws to punish more severely those who drive under its influence,” said Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
But some safety experts aren’t convinced. According to the Alberta Motor Association, research from Washington state (it legalized pot in 2012) showed the percentage of drivers killed in crashes after smoking pot rose from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.
And the Canadian Automobile Association discovered 67 percent of Canadians are concerned about other drivers getting behind the wheel while high, even before pot is made legal.
The government insists its Cannabis Act is “an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians’ public health and safety,” said Wilson-Raybould. “By tackling alcohol- and drug-impaired driving with new and tougher criminal offences, Canadians will be better protected from impaired drivers and the number of deaths and accidents on our roads will be reduced.”
If enacted, Canada’s pot laws would also introduce the use of “new tools” to help police detect drugs in the bloodstream of drivers pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence.
Pending Parliamentary approval, the government wants to have the Cannabis Act in place by July 2018, at which point adults 18 and over would be permitted to possess up to 30 grams of pot in public and to grow up to four plants per household.