No cannabis-related spike noted in impaired driving after legalization
Police have not seen the spike in cannabis-related impaired driving predicted by some after legalization.
Pre-October, with the country moving toward cannabis legalization, police and lawyers geared up for what was expected to be a rash of impaired driving offences related to the drug.
Instead — in Regina, at least — crickets.
“I don’t have numbers, but I’ll use the word ‘low,’ ” Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray said recently at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting when questioned by reporters on the issue. “We have not laid a lot of (cannabis-related) impaired driving charges. In fact, I don’t think we’ve laid any impaired driving charges as a result of cannabis.”
City police spokesman Les Parker confirmed it, stating the current numbers for cannabis-related impaired driving are “zero, unless other charges are mislabeled.”
Parker said police will go through stats in greater detail down the road, particularly moving into November when its one-year report on the subject will be released. While it’s possible a cannabis-related impaired driving charge has managed to slip through current stats, the fact remains Regina has not seen anything resembling the situation police — and many members of the public — feared.
“Whether there’s one or even 10, it is lower than we anticipated …,” Parker said. “We had seen other places, like Colorado for instance, and they had a marked increase, and we had reason to believe that something similar would happen here … We expected an increase in driving while impaired by cannabis simply because we expected cannabis maybe to be more prevalent in use. However, we (have been) delighted so far to find that hasn’t been the case.”
While he couldn’t speak to precisely why the numbers aren’t there, he said it could mean users are being responsible about not getting behind the wheel, or it might have to do with with Canada’s shortage of the drug (at least in terms of legally obtainable supplies).
Lawyers, too, had suspected the legislative change might result in a short-term bump in cannabis-related impaired driving charges, whether because of more people opting to try the drug or because of stepped-up police enforcement.
Instead, new clients are few and far between.
“I haven’t seen the floodgates open …,” Ian McKay, a lawyer who has handled impaired driving cases in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, said. “I haven’t seen the huge increase in files that people were talking about. I’m sure it will come at some point, but I’m not seeing it right now.”
Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results and all litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts and circumstances of each individual case.