Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday said commercial truckers, drivers 21 and under, and novice motorists will face stiff penalties if caught behind the wheel after using cannabis.
Ontario will have a “zero tolerance” policy toward young drivers and truckers who use marijuana.
Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday said those 21 and under, commercial drivers, and novice motorists will face stiffer penalties if caught behind the wheel while under the influence of cannabis or booze.
Following the lead of eight U.S. states that have legalized marijuana — including Colorado, Washington, and California — Wynne said road safety will be a priority once recreational weed is allowed after next July 1.
“We had a goal to balance the new freedom that people in Ontario will have to use cannabis recreationally with everyone’s expectation that it will be managed responsibly,” the premier said.
Recreational marijuana will only be sold here by the government in standalone LCBO-run stores — 40 in July, rising to 150 in 2020 — or online.
The province is using the impending legalization as an opportunity to also beef up drinking-and-driving penalities — with an eye on young motorists.“We saw that in eight U.S. states where cannabis is legal those states have matched the legal age for using cannabis with the legal age for drinking alcohol — and so with that consultation under our belt we decided to move forward with that same model setting the age at 19,” she said.
Similarly, the penalties for marijuana-impaired motoring will be modelled on drunk-driving laws.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said it’s necessary to “introduce harsher consequences for those who choose to drive while impaired” — by drugs or alcohol.
For a first offence, young drivers — and all G1, G2, M1, and M2 licence holders — will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine.
A second will result in a week-long suspension and a $350 fine with all subsequent occurrences penalized with a 30-day suspension and a $450 fine.
Similarly, commercial drivers will face three-day suspensions any time they are caught and fined up to $450.
All other drivers found to be within the blood-alcohol concentrate range of between .05 and .08 will face suspensions of between three and 30 days and fines of up to $450.
Those with blood-alcohol concentrate levels above .08 face a 90-day suspension and $550 fines.
“All of these measures are in addition to federal criminal charges for impaired driving, which ultimately could result in a loss of licence, additional fines, or jail time,” said Del Duca.
“Let me be clear: driving while impaired is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said.
MADD Canada’s Andrew Murie noted that “by far cannabis is the leading drug when it comes to road fatalities when drugs are present.”
“So there are lot of things we need to do,” said Murie, adding he was hopeful upcoming oral-fluid road tests would help discourage marijuana use by drivers.
The tests, which examine THC levels in saliva, still must be approved by the federal government and it’s unclear how effective they will be in cold weather. Most U.S. jurisdictions use blood tests.
Progressive Conservative MPP Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga) said the government will “need to provide police with the needed resources to keep our streets safe.”
Harris noted the Ontario Provincial Police has estimated it will need up to 500 specially trained officers to enforce the law. Currently, only 83 are trained to recognize drug-impaired driving.
“The Ontario PCs will continue to listen and consult with law enforcement, public health, and community groups on this issue. We can’t afford to not get this one right,” he said.
Ontario Trucking Association president Stephen Laskowski said the government’s moves “are a very positive first step.”
“Historically when you compare commercial drivers to the general population it’s always much lower in commercial drivers,” said Laskowski.
“So what this does today is make sure the historical level of excellence we have in this area, we have it moving forward post-July 1, 2018,” he said.
Source: The Toronto Star