Despite fears that allowing recreational cannabis use would lead to an epidemic of high drivers, most Canadian police forces say that cannabis legalization has not resulted in more people driving high.
The possibility of more people driving under the influence is the number one reason why Canadians and Americans believe cannabis shouldn’t be legalized. But according to police data from across the country, those fears can be put to rest.
"As expected by the [Vancouver Police Department], we have not seen a sudden spike in cannabis related offenses since the legalization last October. Really, it's been business as usual," Const. Jason Doucette told CTV News.
Elsewhere, police are reporting that the rates of cannabis-impaired driving have stayed largely the same, and in some cases they’ve even decreased since legalization. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the RCMP have laid cannabis-impaired driving charges on 21 individuals since legalization took effect. Over that same October to April timeframe a year earlier, they reported 56 cases of cannabis-impaired drivers.
And, for a number of other Canadian police departments, drug-impaired driving charges have been exceedingly few and far between. In Charlottetown, PEI, police have laid four charges since legalization. The Yukon Ministry of Justice has laid only one. In Fredericton, New Brunswick, police haven’t charged anyone with drug-impaired driving since cannabis was legalized.
However, there does appear to be at least one major exception to this trend. The Alberta RCMP reports that drug-impaired driving charges rose over the last year from 32 cases to 58. So Alberta seems to be the outlier when compared to other Canadian jurisdictions.
One thing that is on the rise nationally though, are charges for improperly storing and transporting cannabis in a vehicle.
"What we're seeing more and more is that the general public isn't trying to hide their cannabis products anymore. We provide a reminder to treat it like alcohol and store in the trunk instead of on the front seat," said Sgt. Paul Manaigre of the Manitoba RCMP.
So while drivers seem to understand that drug-impaired driving is a bad idea, education around how to properly transport cannabis is still needed. You certainly don’t need to hide your cannabis from police anymore, but you're still not supposed to keep it within reaching distance of the driver.
Still, the biggest takeaway from these reports is that the 'best argument for prohibition' isn't a very good argument after all. Go figure.