The St. Thomas Police Service has been closely monitoring provincial and federal legislation regulating cannabis.
The Cannabis Act, which creates a strict legal framework controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis, comes into effect on October 17, 2018. Until then, it remains illegal to buy, possess or use cannabis for anything other than authorized medical or research purposes. Drug-impaired driving has been illegal since 1925, and our Service will continue to strictly enforce this driving behaviour which puts all road users at risk.
The St. Thomas Police Service has been working diligently, both internally and with our regional and municipal partners, to prepare for the legalization of cannabis. Our role in this regard will continue to include the application and enforcement of applicable laws.
We recognize that the introduction of Bill C-45 has prompted questions from the community regarding traffic safety, and the specifics of how cannabis will be able to be consumed, purchased, grown and distributed. In this regard, we have compiled a number of resources here to assist in navigating these topics.
Bill C-45, The Cannabis Act
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, will come into effect on October 17, 2018.
Once in effect, the Cannabis Act will allow adults, subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, to:
- purchase fresh cannabis, dried cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis seeds, or cannabis plants from authorized retailers;
- smoke and vape cannabis in private residences, many outdoor public places, designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns, and controlled areas in long-term care homes, certain retirement homes, residential hospices etc.;
- possess up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis or equivalent in non-dried form in public;
- share up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis with other adults;
- grow up to four cannabis plants per household (not per person) for personal use, from licensed seeds or seedlings from a licensed supplier; and
- make legal cannabis-containing products at home, such as food and drinks, provided that dangerous organic solvents are not used in making them.
Until October 17, 2018, cannabis remains illegal in Canada, unless authorized for medical or scientific purposes.
The Cannabis Act creates a specific criminal offence for selling cannabis to a minor and creates significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.
Drug-impaired driving remains illegal in Canada. Refer to section 3.iii) for additional details, including detection, enforcement and penalties.
Part I of Bill C-46
Part I of Bill C-46, which came into force on June 21, 2018, introduces three new criminal offences related to drug-impaired driving or when a motorist is impaired by a combination of drugs and alcohol. The offences focus on the concentration of THC, measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml):
- an offence for low-level THC concentrations of 2 ng/ml to less than 5 ng/ml = $1,000 fine
- an offence for higher-level THC concentrations of 5 ng/ml of more = $1,000 fine to 120 days in jail
- an offence that recognizes the effects of combined marijuana and alcohol consumption; 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml blood plus 2.5 ng/ml or more of THC = $1,000 fine to 120 days in jail
It is important to note that the new offences apply to those with a medical authorization for cannabis.
The Bill will also allow police to conduct tests, using approved oral fluid screening equipment or a blood test, to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs at the time of driving.
While this new law creates measurable limits specific to cannabis, drivers that use St. Thomas roadways are reminded that the St. Thomas Police Service already has the ability to detect impairment via roadside sobriety testing and via a post-arrest drug recognition evaluation.
In 2017, in anticipation of this new law, our Service commenced increasing its capacity to conduct both Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) and Drug Recognition Evaluations (DREs). While police services wait for the federal government to approve an oral fluid screening device, the St. Thomas Police Service will continue to enforce based on observations of the readily recognizable effects of drugs and alcohol on a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Part II of Bill C-46
Part II of Bill C-46, which will come into force on December 18, 2018, will allow police to conduct roadside breath alcohol testing, without having suspicion of alcohol consumption, when a motorist is lawfully stopped by police.
Mandatory alcohol screening is in place in nearly a dozen European and Commonwealth countries and has been credited with reducing road fatalities by up to 40 per cent in the first four years after it was enacted. It provides a mechanism for better detection of those who choose to drink and get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Impaired driving is impaired driving, whether the impairment is by alcohol or by drug.
The Criminal Code of Canada does not differentiate between alcohol-impaired driving offences and drug-impaired driving offences. Driving while impaired by any combination of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offence, and has been since 1925. In fact, over time, the Criminal Code has evolved in such a manner as to enhance the ability of law enforcement to detect drug impairment.
Impairment by alcohol or by drugs affects information-processing, hand-eye coordination, judgment, concentration, comprehension, visual acuity and reaction time. These effects are readily recognizable and cannot be concealed by a motorist. If suspected impaired driving is witnessed, a traffic stop will be initiated by St. Thomas Police Service officers.
The Criminal Code empowers police officers to arrest for impaired operation or to conduct a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) to establish additional grounds to support an arrest.
Post-arrest, an additional 12-step evaluation will be conducted by an accredited Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). If the DRE officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a suspect is impaired by drugs, they are then authorized to demand a blood, urine or saliva sample from the suspect. A positive DRE test will also result in a 90 day Administrative Driver’s Licence suspension as well.
The DRE evaluation is one method available to police through which criminal charges relating to drug-impaired driving may be laid under the Criminal Code.
Current penalties for drug-impaired driving range from a $1,000 fine on a first offence to 120 days of imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence. Drug-impaired driving that results in death could result in life imprisonment.
There is a prevalent misunderstanding amongst some adolescents that driving high "isn’t that dangerous" and even "makes one a better driver". In fact, driving high impairs all the cognitive abilities needed for safe driving. Adolescents who possess a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence – and all persons under age 22 – must also adhere to a zero drug level while driving. Failing to do so will result in a licence suspension, vehicle tow, additional MTO fees, a $110 fine and a further 30 day licence suspension on conviction for young drivers (<22yrs).
Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Community safety is a shared responsibility, and we encourage residents and visitors to continue to work with us to reduce impaired driving. Impaired driving is considered a crime in progress. If you witness suspected impaired driving, please call 9-1-1 to report it.
- Government of Canada Bill C-45, "The Cannabis Act"
- Government of Canada Bill C-46, "An Act to Amend the Criminal Code"
- Bill 174, Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017
- Government of Canada resources on cannabis for medical purposes
- Proposed Province of Ontario legislation
- Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. H8
- Ontario Cannabis Legalization Summary