Why has no B.C. driver been charged with cannabis-related impaired driving offences?

An online survey conducted by EKOS says 33 percent of Canadians are OK driving high on cannabis. Although the language of the survey findings report insists this is “drug-impaired driving.” The survey doesn’t address the assumption that cannabis-influenced driving is harmful. It merely parrots the established narrative and then records Canadian responses. Fortunately, Canadian cannabis consumers aren’t buying the government’s propaganda and are OK driving high on cannabis.

Of the 58% of Canadians who have tried cannabis, 26 percent have hit the road after consuming. The survey analyzed 2,193 responses through a self-administered online questionnaire. Within the group of admitted stoned drivers, only 10 percent said they were unaware of the risks. Twenty-three percent said they could still drive safely, and 39 percent said they didn’t feel impaired.

What is Impairment?

Canadians OK Driving High on Cannabis

And that’s why these Canadians are OK driving high on cannabis. They don’t feel high. Cannabis is not alcohol. No matter how often you drink, six beers will impair you, unlike cannabis, where if you spend 20 years smoking a quarter-a-week, then a bowl or a joint isn’t going to do much in terms of impairment. If anything, the law of diminishing returns suggests cannabis becomes a stimulant at this point. Not having cannabis before driving would be like a long-time coffee drinker not having a coffee. Technically doable, but you put yourself and others at risk.

The same goes for having kids in the backseat or a dog. (The guy who hit and almost killed author Stephen King was dealing with dogs in his backseat.) 

What about people who are just bad at driving? In Ontario, outside of the GTA, it’s not uncommon to hear “Toronto driver” as synonymous with a bad driver. Not every Toronto driver is a bad driver, and not every lousy driver is from Toronto. But the term “Toronto driver” implies someone completely unaware of others on the road. They barely use their turn signal, if at all. Blindspot? Isn’t that what mirrors are for? And the far left lane is their private laneway. Didn’t you know that? That left lane belongs to the Toronto driver no matter how slow they’re driving, and you’re the asshole for expecting them to move over.

The federal government warns Canadians about the supposed risks of driving while high. But what about the dangers of the Toronto driver? Roads and automobile licensing are government responsibilities. Perhaps it’s time to dispense with the notion of “market failure” and realize that the government’s control over these sectors is making us (and our roads) unsafe.

Canadians Not OK with Driving High on Cannabis 

“There is no good excuse for driving while impaired, and being a passenger with an impaired driver is also risky,” a government webpage tells Canadians. In 2017, the Public Safety bureaucracy launched a “Don’t Drive High” campaign. The government said the campaign was a success despite 1/3 of Canadians still being OK with driving high on cannabis. 

MADD Canada is not happy about the results of this latest survey. Eric Dumschat, MADD Canada’s legal director, said, “there’s this persistent myth that if you drive under the influence of cannabis, you’re… a better driver than when you’re sober.”

He said MADD Canada has some difficulty countering this myth. Since awareness can only go so far, Dumschat says governments need to step up and give police more training and powers to conduct field sobriety tests.

But where’s the logic here? If police must employ “drug recognition evaluation and oral fluid screening technology” to confirm that you’re high, can you be all that impaired?

Take a drunk driver. They are impaired. Even unapologetic drinkers know the drug impacts their reaction time and motor skills. So why are cannabis connoisseurs so stubborn? Why won’t they let this myth die?

Perhaps it’s because there’s truth to the myth. Cannabis isn’t a toxin the body treats like poison. Cannabis works positively with our endocannabinoid system. It doesn’t impair everyone. For some, taking cannabis is like having caffeine. For almost anyone, taking a glob of cannabis oil and getting behind the wheel isn’t fun. But for most cannabis connoisseurs, a little bit of THC before hitting the road is like a shot of espresso. 

Canadians OK Driving High on Cannabis – So Focus on Something Else 

Canadians OK Driving High on Cannabis

Eighty-six percent of the survey respondents agreed that cannabis impairs driving ability. But that 86% included people who don’t often consume. Or at all. So what about the Canadians OK with driving high on cannabis?

Eugene Oscapella isn’t technically one of these people. He said, “It’s not a good idea to drive while you’re impaired, but … we have to be careful to situate the issue, the severity of the problem, amongst other factors that can cause driving to be dangerous for other people.”

Eugene, who teaches drug policy at Ottawa University, said he’d like to see the government focus on more dangerous driving behaviours. He cites alcohol, prescription drugs, and lack of sleep as more pressing than cannabis.

Cannabis only becomes a real problem, says Eugene, when combined with one of these other drugs, like alcohol.

“There’s going to be a percentage of the population — no matter what the advertising campaigns, no matter what the penalties — who are going to drive in situations where they’ve gotten impaired by alcohol or a drug.

“I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know if there is an answer,” Eugene said.

One Possible Answer

In The Privatization of Roads and Highways, economist Walter Block addresses the issues raised by Eugene. To quote Block,

“How best to stop driving while drinking? Heavier penalties? More emphasis on driver education? More police monitoring? Rewards for exemplary driving? Payment for joining Alcoholics Anonymous? Again, the same principles apply. Privatize the avenues of vehicular transportation, and rely upon the new owners, under the tutelage of the free enterprise profit-and-loss system, to find solutions.

“One of this new breed of highway proprietors, of course, would be MADD. Under such a system, a revitalized and reinvigorated MADD, as an organization, would be able to implement its own policies on drinking while driving, speeding, whatever. It would have to take its chances in competition with all other entrants into this industry, but that is the way of the market system.

“At present, in contrast, under a road system that would bring a smile to the face of a Russian Commissar, there is simply no managerial role for MADD to play. Compare your situation with that of Ducks Unlimited, Western Wilderness Society, or any other environmental group. They are not relegated to the sidelines in their analogous field, limited to offering advice and, in a word, begging the powers that be. They can, of course, do these things. But they can also buy up vast tracts of land (they would be unable to do this in the U.S.S.R.) and manage them as they please. Why should MADD accept its present inferior status, vis à vis these other groups?”

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