Statistics show the legalization of cannabis a little more than a year ago has not resulted in much of a spike in impaired driving charges.
It was an offence to drive impaired prior to legalization on Oct. 17, 2018, and that hasn’t changed, noted RCMP Corp. Mike Halskov, media relations officer for traffic services with RCMP “E” Division headquarters in Surrey.
Halskov said people who drove under the influence of cannabis before the new legislation took effect may continue to do so, despite the change in law.
“Those that did not use cannabis prior to the new legislation are not likely to change their habits due to legalization and if they do, I suggest the number would be insignificant. So the overall number is not likely to change much, if at all. Based on that, we didn’t really anticipate a major spike. The overarching message is that people who are going to drive impaired will continue with that behaviour.”
Looking at the situation another way, Halskov said if someone is a non-drinker, it doesn’t mean that they will start drinking just because it’s legal.
The most current information available to Halskov from the National Drug Recognition Expert with National RCMP Traffic Services includes data for this year up to Aug. 1. The RCMP and municipal police agencies in B.C. have pursued 455 drug-impaired investigations, with the RCMP accounting for 343 of the 455 investigations. Of those, 140 were advanced solely for criminal charges. Seventy investigations were advanced solely for administrative-sanctions, and 182 were advanced for both criminal and administrative charges. In 30 cases, police released with no charge, and 30 are still under police investigation.
The prosecutorial process in B.C. requires officers to submit all evidence to Crown Counsel on submission of a court brief. Of the 455 drug-impaired investigations submitted by police, 414 are still under investigation. The majority of those are awaiting toxicological results, and 37 have been concluded by administrative sanction. Four cases have not been approved by Crown Counsel or through court process.
Police have been conducting impaired driving investigations in Canada since the 192os. It was a criminal offence to drive while impaired by cannabis before legalization and remains that way, Halskov said. The new legislation has provided police with additional tools to investigate impaired driving, including mandatory breath testing, he added.