SGI is shining the spotlight on driving high in the May Traffic Spotlight. SGI and law enforcement will join together to share information to help drivers understand the laws regarding cannabis.
“There are still some misconceptions about what you can and can’t do when it comes to cannabis and driving,” said Penny McCune, Chief Operating Officer of the Auto Fund. “Some people think that because it’s legal, they can drive right after using it. Others think because Saskatchewan has a ‘zero-tolerance’ for drug-impaired driving, they will fail a roadside test if they have used cannabis several days ago, or within the last month. Neither of those is correct.”
SGI states there is an increasing number of impaired driving roadside suspensions as a result of people driving under the influence of drugs.
Police use federally approved roadside saliva testing devices to determine the presence of THC in the driver’s saliva, they can also use Standardized Field Sobriety Tests or SFSTs.
SGI states that in 2021, police in Saskatchewan issued 523 administrative license suspensions to drivers that failed a roadside drug screening or performed poorly on an SFST due to drugs, an increase from the 76 suspensions in that category just two years prior.
While SGI doesn’t have cannabis-specific impaired driving statistics, SGI states that RCMP has seen a significant proportion of drug-related suspensions due to drivers under the influence of cannabis. RCMP state a driver who has used cannabis won’t react or make decisions as quickly as a sober driver, as attention, judgement, motor skills, balance, and coordination are all impacted.
Zero tolerance doesn’t mean someone can never use cannabis, states SGI, but means drivers should not get behind the wheel with any level of impairing drugs in their system that is detectable by a screening device.
“THC has a shorter lifespan in saliva than it does in urine or blood,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Barbar. “For most people, THC will no longer be present in oral fluid after 12-24 hours.”
Someone who used cannabis on a Saturday and drove to work on a Monday is highly unlikely to fail a test, explains SGI.
Barbar noted that police can only conduct oral fluid tests or SFST if they have reason to suspect recent cannabis consumption. “If someone had used cannabis 48 hours ago, for example, that suspicion would not exist and a test could not be conducted,” he added.
Barbar suggests that just like alcohol, people should not get behind the wheel if they are feeling the effects of cannabis in any way.
“We encourage our customers to enjoy our products in a safe and responsible manner, including following impaired driving laws,” said Farmer Jane Cannabis Co. President Kerri Michell. “It is important that people are educated in order to reduce risks and avoid unnecessary consequences. Doing so keeps them and others safe.”
Consequences include licence suspensions, vehicle impoundments, financial penalties and the requirement to complete an impaired driving education program. Consequences vary depending on whether you’re a new or experienced driver, and if it’s your first, second or subsequent offence.
SGI states at the very minimum, a driver who registers a fail on the roadside saliva-testing device will have their licence suspended for three days, and the vehicle immediately impounded for three days; the length of suspension and impoundment is longer for repeat offenders and new drivers. That administrative suspension is not a criminal charge but does also result in a requirement for the driver to attend driver education classes and costs the driver four demerit points under SGI’s Safe Driver Recognition program. Depending on the level of impairment, police may opt to demand the driver undergo a Drug Recognition Evaluation, which is a more intensive series of tests that can trigger criminal charges and more significant consequences.
There are cannabis-specific impaired driving charges in the Criminal Code, stated SGI, which can result in significant monetary fines or even imprisonment, depending on the drug concentration, whether it is a repeat offence, and whether an impaired driver caused a collision that hurt or killed someone.
Other facts SGI wants to remind drivers of are:
- Consumption (smoking, vaping, eating or drinking) of cannabis products in a vehicle by a driver or passenger is prohibited.
- When it comes to transporting cannabis, you can transport it in your vehicle from a place where you legally bought it to a place where you can legally consume it, or from one place of legal consumption to another.
- Driving under the influence of cannabis is against the law even if you have a prescription for it.
- The approved screening devices detect the presence of THC in saliva, not CBD.