In 2013, Uruguay legalized recreational marijuana, becoming the first country to do so on a national level. Five years later, Canada followed suit, setting a precedent for legalized recreational cannabis sales and use in a major global economy.
At the time of writing, legalized recreational marijuana use is limited to these two countries. Though many more have decriminalized and even normalized recreational possession of marijuana, it remains illegal to cultivate it, sell it, or smoke it in large amounts.
Canada’s reimagined vision for cannabis activists and casual users? One: a thriving marijuana market fostered by governmental dispensaries. Two: a lax social environment conditioned to view pot, which even Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau admits to having smoked, without its taboo associations. And three: a system of beneficial legal policies that decriminalize the activity.
While the first two goals are yet to be seen in long-term effects (the bill has only been in effect since October 2018), legal measures have been taken by the Canadian government to ensure that consumption of marijuana is safely produced, distributed, and accounted for.
The Cannabis Act, which is included within the Canadian Department of Justice website, enforces preventative steps that keep cannabis away from youth and criminals. Under this act, public health and safety are made a priority. Among other strict legal limitations, adults 18 and over are legally allowed up to 150 grams of fresh cannabis, and dealers are liable to jail time if caught selling or providing cannabis to youth (persons under the age of 18).
The Dangers of Driving Impaired
It is important to note that with the Canadian legalization of marijuana, the risk of driving under the influence may become more common. For instance, new and inexperienced users unaccustomed to the effects of cannabis might feel they are safe to drive when, in fact, the opposite rings true.
As it is, driving impaired is already a major threat to public safety. According to Canada.ca, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in the country. The same government page reports that the percentage of Canadian drivers killed in vehicle crashes caused by drug-impaired driving is 7 points higher than that of alcohol-impaired driving.
Through the Cannabis Act, the Canadian police force is tasked with detecting marijuana use through roadside oral fluid drug screeners. But while this legislation will enforce prohibited blood drug concentrations while driving, the method of testing through on-road detection may be too little, too late.
While Canada’s new driving legislation sets regulations and penalties for driving impaired, it is not preventative. When it comes to getting behind the wheel, users of recreational marijuana are left alone to decide whether they are capable of driving or not.