Up to 14% of cannabis users driving high according to Stats Canada

On Aug. 9, Stats Canada released the results of its quarterly National Cannabis Survey which found, among other things, that 1 in 7 cannabis users got behind the wheel within two hours of consuming and that approximately 1.4 million Canadians had gotten in a vehicle driven by someone who had used cannabis two hours prior.

It also found that drug-impaired driving incidents more than doubled between 2009 and 2017 but the report was careful to note that doesn’t necessarily mean twice as many people are driving under the influence as detection methods have only gotten better and police may be checking drivers more often with legalization only months away.

Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting findings and the difference between men’s and women’s cannabis preferences while also adding some important context to the numbers and how they compare to drunk driving.

Where does the driving data come from?

Stats Canada said that while it usually relied on police reports to track incidents of cannabis-impaired driving, it acknowledged that police don’t catch every drug-impaired driver and so it included supplemental survey questions for Canadians to self-report their cannabis and driving habits to try and get the bigger picture.

The numbers seem high but some context is needed

It’s important to take the numbers with a grain of salt, especially for the self-reported drivers who smoked cannabis within two hours of getting behind the wheel because there is no data on how much or little they consumed before driving.

What if they only had a toke or two? Or if they’d done a dab? Obviously, how much cannabis they consumed would play a major role in how impaired (or not) they were, so we can’t jump to conclusions and assume they were impaired.

The fact that the survey asked respondents if they had consumed cannabis within 2 hours of driving is also very important because of the new rules coming in with Bill C-46, because, as the Globe and Mail said,

“What you’ll be charged with depends on how many nanograms of THC you have per millilitre of blood within two hours of driving.”

Also, keep in mind a study from 2016 found 1 in 4 Canadians admitting to driving drunk, and when compared to that, the 14% of cannabis users who drove doesn’t look as bad- especially when considering the cannabis users only said they’d consumed within that 2 hour window, which does not automatically mean they were impaired.

And while the science is still out on how long you’d have to wait after smoking to get under the 5 nanogram of THC per mL of blood limit, we know that for alcohol, there’s a well-known rule of thumb that says you should wait between 1-2 hours after that drink before driving.

But what do you think- should drivers have to wait 1-2 hours after smoking before getting back in the cars?

Battle of the sexes

Generally, men are more likely to take risks than women, and it was no different here. Men were almost 2X more likely to have driven within 2 hours of using cannabis than women.

It was also found that men and women have different preferences when it comes to their method of consumption.

According to the report:

“Analysis by gender shows that higher percentages of males reported using dried flower/leaf than did females, while the opposite was true for edibles.”

Men preferred dried flower 9% more than the fairer sex (90% of men compared to 81% of women), while women reported using edibles more than men at 41% compared to men’s 25%.

You might be surprised, you might not

While the national average was about 14% for drivers that admitted to consuming cannabis within two hours of driving, in BC, only 8% said they’d done so.

You might have expected that the home of BC Bud would be much higher, but perhaps they’re more likely to take a walk or ride their bikes or possibly just chill on the couch.

27% of daily or near-daily cannabis users said they’d driven within two hours of consuming.


Featured image courtesy of IB Times UK.


Stats Canada: National Cannabis Survey, second quarter 2018