Cannabis was Legalized in Canada, and the World Didn’t End

Cannabis was Legalized in Canada, and the World Didn’t End

Disclaimer: BRNT doesn’t condone driving while intoxicated by any substance. Instead, check out this list of 101 things you should do instead of driving high, built by our friends at Tweed.

It feels like so long ago, but when cannabis was legalized back in October, we said that everyone was watching Canada. As the second nation to legalize recreational cannabis across the board, and by far the largest, both pro- and anti-cannabis groups sat with bated breath and waited to chart the effects of the monumental change:

Would the world end after a drug which many consider dangerous (it’s not, generally) became widely available?

Well, just under two months have passed since legalization, enough time to see some of the effects of the change, and we have a breaking news bulletin:


The World Hasn’t Ended

At first, things didn’t look great for the pro-cannabis side, as police in Winnipeg made the first cannabis-related driving under the influence (DUI) charge within the first hour of legalization (we’ll call that one an “oopsie”). But things quickly calmed down and returned to normal.

Actually, the cannabis-related DUI rate has barely changed at all, claims an article from the Canadian Press. There have been drug-related DUI incidents reported by every major police force in Canada (most sources don’t distinguish between cannabis and other drug impairments), but the numbers are roughly the same as the weeks and months before legalization.

The common thread across Canada was simple: just because it just became legal, doesn’t mean that people weren’t getting high and driving before. And while casual consumption might have gone up since October 17 (or it might not have, we don’t have the numbers), those who are comfortable with getting high and then driving are more veterans than neophytes.

Area Incidents Before Legalization Incidents Since Legalization
Manitoba 1 3
Halifax 0 0
Nunavut 5 5
Toronto Not available 2
Vancouver Not available 18


What’s happening in Vancouver?

There’s one stand-out number on the chart above: Vancouver’s whopping 18 cannabis-related-driving incidents in the month since legalization. And while “BC Bud” is a colloquial term referring to the province’s apparent love of cannabis (one report found that, prior to legalization, support for cannabis was higher in British Columbia was higher than in any other province), the answer isn’t that Vancouverites like smoking that much more than other Canadians; it’s that the rules for what’s considered a “cannabis-related incident” is different in BC.

Every province has their own set of laws and regulations surrounding cannabis and cars. All of them are consistent in one thing: don’t drive high. But different provinces also restrict what passengers can do, and how to store cannabis while driving. In most provinces, for example, just making sure that your cannabis is in a sealed container and out of arm’s reach of the driver is ok, but in Manitoba, all cannabis has to be kept in a secure compartment (like your trunk), and in Ontario and BC, it’s an offense for passengers to be smoking cannabis, regardless of whether or not the driver is sober.

It seems to be these ancillary regulations, and the lack of knowledge of them, that caused the spike in the Vancouver numbers above. That’s what BC police are saying, anyways.


Cannabis and cars don’t mix

The challenges, police across Canada say, is more education-based than impairment. Canadians should look up the rules and regulations before getting behind the wheel after consuming cannabis. And when in doubt, stay out of the vehicle. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

And while there are still many, many more incidents of alcohol-based DUI incidents, remember that cannabis is not safe to consume before driving as well. Seriously, we can’t stress this enough: keep these numbers down. Don’t drive high.

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