Stoned Drivers Now Face the Same Penalties as Drunk Drivers in Ontario

But there's still no reliable way to "breathalyze" weed smokers.

by Sarah Berman
Oct 2 2016, 4:29pm

Maybe don't? Photo via Flickr user Rafael Castillo

Starting today, October 2, stoned drivers will face the same penalties as drunk drivers in Ontario. Rules now apply across all substances, according to a transportation ministry announcement this week.

On the low end, Ontarians caught driving while high are looking at a $180 ticket and immediate three-day licence suspension. More fines, mandatory education or treatment, criminal charges and jail time are also a possibility.

The trouble is, at least in the case of weed, cops don't yet have a reliable way to measure exactly how much drivers have smoked, or how much it impairs driving judgment. In a statement, OPP police chief Chuck Cox said his officers are "highly trained" in a bunch of acronyms that appear to stand for your classic touch-your-nose-and-say-the-alphabet-backwards roadside test. There's no equivalent to the breathalyzer for alcohol.

Read More: How High Is too High to Drive?

Canadian researchers are still studying what weed does to drivers' response times, attention spans, and ability to judge time and distances while driving. Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is conducting the world's biggest-ever clinical study using a massive driving simulator VICE tested out earlier this year.

In the meantime, a bunch of weed breathalyzer prototypes seem to be popping up. Cops in California tested one company's model out in the streets, and released results in September. A researcher at UBC says she's developed a $15 option. Engineers at Stanford are testing out saliva swabs, but these have yet to make it onto the wider market.

With weed legalization on the way, cops are preparing for a spike in cannabis-impaired driving. Places like Washington and Colorado, where recreational weed is already legal, have seen increases in fatal crashes with cannabis detected. Whether Canada adopts a legal limit on weed, like Washington's five nanograms of THC per litre of blood, still remains to be seen.

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Sarah Berman
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