Le­gal, but not if you’re at the wheel

The Globe and Mail (Atlantic Edition) - - NEWS -

The busy­work of ready­ing the coun­try for le­gal­ized cannabis con­tin­ues apace, and Ot­tawa has got­ten around to map­ping out the murky ter­ri­tory that is stoned driv­ing.

Pro­posed leg­isla­tive changes would cre­ate a two-tiered ap­proach to set­ting the max­i­mum amount of THC, cannabis’s main psy­choac­tive el­e­ment, al­low­able in drivers’ blood. Mo­torists mea­sured with two to five nanograms of THC per millil­itre of blood within two hours of be­ing stopped would be sub­jected to a fine; those above would be treated crim­i­nally, mir­ror­ing the way many prov­inces deal with al­co­hol and driv­ing.

The ap­proach raises var­i­ous prob­lems, not least of which are the iffy re­li­a­bil­ity of road­side test­ing for weed and a paucity of sta­tis­tics to ac­cu­rately de­pict the scale of the prob­lem.

Then there’s the ques­tion of where to set the limit for medic­i­nal users, who by def­i­ni­tion have a higher base­line THC level, long af­ter it’s been me­tab­o­lized.

Thus, a group of de­fence lawyers is urg­ing Ot­tawa to put a hold on changes to the Crim­i­nal Code, on the grounds that the cur­rent pro­pos­als un­fairly sin­gle out le­gal med­i­cal-mar­i­juana con­sumers. It’s a thin ar­gu­ment. Lim­it­ing how much cannabis one may con­sume be­fore driv­ing does not stig­ma­tize medic­i­nal users any more than a 0.08 per cent blood-al­co­hol con­tent stig­ma­tizes le­gal drinkers. Many med­i­ca­tions carry warn­ings against op­er­at­ing ma­chin­ery or driv­ing; if tak­ing them re­sults in im­pair­ment, you can be ar­rested – and you should be.

When it comes to mar­i­juana, the law may be mov­ing faster than the mech­a­nism of en­force­ment, but fo­cus­ing the de­bate on tech­ni­cal­i­ties ob­scures the broader goal. There is noth­ing wrong with erring on the side of cau­tion. A re­stric­tive stan­dard is prefer­able to an overly le­nient one.

While we’re at it, Canada should con­sider drop­ping the bar for booze. Drunk driv­ing is a large-scale and well un­der­stood threat, and this coun­try has higher le­gal lim­its than many oth­ers.

As a so­ci­ety we should be ex­tremely pru­dent about what con­di­tion one is al­lowed to be in when get­ting be­hind the wheel. That means ag­gres­sively fight­ing im­paired driv­ing on our roads, what­ever the source of the im­pair­ment.

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