Canada's new driving regulations could criminalize 200,000 medical marijuana patients, according to a group of 50 defence lawyers that recently sent an open letter calling on the federal government to rethink the proposed threshold for drugged driving.
The government's bill to legalize recreational marijuana currently contains a proposal called the Blood Drug Concentration Regulations, which would set the threshold for drugged driving at two nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood (2 ng/ml of THC). Anyone caught with between 2-5ng/ml THC in their bloodstream would face a summary offence punishable with a fine of up to $1,000.
The proposed regulation is intended to keep roads safe from high drivers, but the group of lawyers says it could actually penalize law-abiding medical marijuana patients.
"While an occasional user of cannabis may fall below the 2 ng/ml level a number of hours after ingestion, several studies have indicated that regular consumers of marijuana, such as those authorized to possess it for medical purposes, will often have levels of THC circulating in their blood above that threshold long after they have abstained from consuming cannabis," the lawyers wrote in a letter addressed to Monique Macaranas — a paralegal working for the Criminal Law Policy Section of Canada's Department of Justice.
The lawyers backed up their claim with two scientific studies from 2009 that found a significant number of cannabis users had more than 2 ng/ml of THC in their bloodstream after a week of abstaining from marijuana.
"Therefore, this provision would disproportionately affect the 200,000 Canadians that are authorized to possess cannabis for medical purposes and would also arbitrarily criminalize many lawful Canadians," the lawyers wrote. Unfortunately, they couldn't offer another situation to the problem of keeping roads safe, but they insisted that criminalizing law-abiding citizens isn't the answer.
"We cannot in good conscience support the implementation of an offence that carries with it a negligible nexus to criminality. We strongly recommend that this provision not be included when the regulations are implemented," concluded the letter, which was undersigned by lawyers including John Conroy and Kirk Tousaw, who have played an instrumental role in fighting against government regulations that infringed on the rights of medical marijuana patients in Canada. And if this proposal gets passed, they'll have many more marijuana-related legal battles ahead.