By Charlie Carey
As more Canadians puff, puff, pass legal cannabis, new national data suggests that less are breaking the law and driving while under the influence.
Based on online responses from approximately 11,000 Canadians, a Health Canada survey found that of people who had used cannabis in the past year, 22 per cent admitted to driving within two hours of using cannabis — a four per cent decrease from 2019 – and 13 per cent said they had driven within four hours of using cannabis — a three per cent decrease from last year.
The majority of those who chose to drive after using cannabis were found to be men and over the age of 20.
In order to gain in-depth information about cannabis use and behaviours among Canadians, Health Canada created and implemented the annual survey starting in 2017.
The survey questions relate to five key areas: issues of public safety, patterns of use, pricing and the cannabis market, as well as medicinal use and knowledge and opinions around legal cannabis.
Respondents who indicated they had driven a vehicle within two hours of using cannabis were also asked if they drove a vehicle within two hours of combining cannabis and drinking alcohol. Unchanged from last year’s results, one-in-five said they had used both at the same time before driving.
Although more than 80 percent of respondents agreed that cannabis use affects driving capabilities, the most common reasons that people got behind the wheel was that they thought they were not impaired, or that they could drive carefully.
Twelve percent of respondents indicated they drove after use because they had no other alternate transportation options.
Depending on the amount of THC found in a driver’s system, B.C.’s impaired driving law can hand down penalties ranging from fines of $500 and driving prohibitions to imprisonment.
Education of cannabis users about safe driving practices is needed, the survey noted, as 31 per cent of respondents stated they did not know how long it takes after using or consuming cannabis products to be safe to drive.