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Ontario Hypes Penalties for High Driving While Awaiting a Reliable Test

September 19, 2017
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (Carlos Osorio/AP)
It’s one of the loudest talking points among those who dread Canada’s impending legalization of cannabis: How will law enforcement handle the presumed influx of high drivers soon to be flooding Canadian roads?

On Monday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke publicly on the topic, announcing enhanced penalties for those caught operating motor vehicles under the influence of cannabis, with the harshest penalties reserved for young drivers, novice drivers, and commercial drivers.

“We had a goal to balance the new freedom that people in Ontario will have to use cannabis recreationally with everyone’s expectation that it will be managed responsibly,” said Wynne.


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Specifics of the upped penalties come from the Canadian Press, which reports young and novice drivers (with a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence) caught driving high will face licence suspensions of three to 30 days and fines between $250 to $450. Similar fines await operators of commercial vehicles found driving high, along with three-day licence suspensions.

“Overall, under the proposed changes any driver who registers a fail on a roadside screening device would be fined anywhere from $250 to $450,” reports the Canadian Press. “The current fine is $198. Drivers who refuse to provide a sample for a roadside test face a $550 fine under the proposed law, up from the current $198 fine.”


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The perennial problem with tracking high driving: Authorities still lack a reliable roadside test for cannabis impairment, primarily due to cannabis’s ability to remain detectable in bloodstreams days and even weeks after impairment has waned.

The proposed best hope: oral test strips, which would examine THC levels in saliva and are currently awaiting approval by the federal government. (However, as the Toronto Star notes cryptically, “It’s unclear how effective they will be in cold weather.”)

As always, stay tuned.

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Dave Schmader

Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader

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  • Turner Kayston

    I think they think we all just take the bus now.

    But when it’s re-legalized under the new prohibition 2.0 regime, we’ll all just start driving, regardless if we have a car or not.

  • Harold Hutchinson

    I was just thinking along the same lines as Turner, I am from across the river ” US ‘” we have the same type thinking people. the reality is that she think there will be a large influx of users, well ya. but the only influx is more local revenues. the reason is everyone that can buy it legally is already driving. it is more likely there are more auto accidents by far. from those that don’t do shit. if for any reason for a increase of law reinforcement it should be for other more sever crimes. Please don’t get me wrong if a person is out there stoned on what ever that’s wrong period,

  • 360dunk

    Nobody should be arrested or cited for traces of THC that’s still in the body from days ago. They need to establish a more realistic standard to judge impairment because 5 ng/ml is way too low. A perfectly sober driver could have that much residual amount in their system left over from last weekend’s party.

  • Mike hunt

    News flash, theres alot of “high” drivers out there. You just wouldnet know because they are using their blinkers, driving the speed limmit and generally being overly cautious.
    Being high is just a different state of mind, not nessesarily a intoxication. Being drunk is just a deterioration of one current state of mind, and most definetly has significantly negative influence on motor skills.

    If you havent smoked every day resposibly and productively for over a year you wouldn’t know/ understand what smoking weed does trully.