Federal and provincial laws impose strict penalties for operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. While many of these laws were created to prevent drinking and driving, police officers can also arrest drivers who show signs of marijuana impairment—and these charges are particularly severe for underage offenders.
Zero Tolerance Rules for New and Underage Drivers
Similar to the rules for alcohol, there is a zero-tolerance rule for cannabis use for young, novice, or commercial drivers. If you’re operating a vehicle, you are not allowed to have any cannabis in your system if:
- You are under 21 years old
- You have a G1, G2, M1, or M2 licence
- Your vehicle requires an A-F driver’s licence or Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR)
- You are driving a road-building machine
In addition to having cannabis in your system, there are limitations to transporting it in a motorized vehicle. You may be charged with possession or drug trafficking if the cannabis in your car is open or “unfastened,” not in its original packaging, easily accessible to anyone in the vehicle, or being transported across the U.S./Canadian border.
Federal Penalties for Drugged Driving in Canada
Bill C-46 was adopted into Canadian law in 2018, adding new offences and penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs. Crimes related to marijuana DUI under the Criminal Code of Canada are defined by the amount of the drug in the driver’s system and whether “high” driving resulted in an accident.
Federal offences and potential consequences include:
- Driving with two nanograms (ng) but less than five ng of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood results in a fine of up to $1000.
- Driving with more than five ng of THC in the blood or any detectable traces of other illegal drugs (such as cocaine or methamphetamine) results in a mandatory minimum $1000 fine for the first offence and a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail for a second offence. Any further violations result in a mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail and up to 10 years imprisonment.
- Driving with a combination of 50 milligrams (mg) of alcohol (or more) plus 2.5 ng or more of THC per one ml of blood results in a mandatory minimum $1000 fine and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment on a first offence, a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail and maximum 10 years imprisonment on a second offence, and a mandatory minimum of 120 days in jail and maximum 10 years imprisonment for further offences.
- Causing an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana (without causing bodily harm) can result in a summary conviction of 18 months or an indictment of up to five years in jail.
- Causing an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana (causing bodily harm) can result in up to 10 years in jail.
- Causing an accident while driving under the influence of marijuana (causing permanent or fatal injuries) can result in life imprisonment.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis in Ontario
Marijuana-impaired drivers will also have to face provincial penalties for drugged driving offences in Ontario. In addition to federal fines and jail time, you may face:
- Roadside penalties for driving with 2-5 ng of THC per ml of blood. If you’re stopped for this offence for the first time, the officer can issue a three-day licence suspension and a fine between $250 and $550. A second offence can result in a seven-day licence suspension, a minimum $350 fine, and enrollment in a marijuana education program. Any subsequent violations will result in a 30-day licence suspension, a minimum $450 fine, a six-month ignition interlock, a mandatory medical exam, and enrollment in a drug treatment program.
- Roadside penalties for driving with five ng or more of THC per ml of blood. If you’re stopped for this offence for the first time, the officer can issue a 90-day licence suspension and licence reinstatement fee, seven-day vehicle impoundment, and a $550 fine. The second offence carries a 90-day licence suspension and reinstatement fee, seven-day vehicle impoundment, mandatory drug education or a treatment program, and a $550 fine. Any additional offences result in a 90-day licence suspension and reinstatement fee, a seven-day vehicle impoundment, mandatory drug education or treatment, a $550 fine, and a six-month ignition interlock when driving privileges are restored.
- A conviction for driving with five ng or more of THC per ml of blood. If you’re convicted of this traffic offence, you may be ordered to complete mandatory drug education or treatment, a minimum one-year licence suspension, and a mandatory one-year ignition interlock upon reinstatement. Additional offences can result in a maximum six-year ignition interlock or lifelong suspension of your driver’s licence.
Can Police Test for Cannabis Use While Driving?
While police are permitted to test drivers for the presence of drugs using Approved Drug Screening Equipment (ADSE), these devices are not infallible. An experienced impaired driving lawyer at Kruse Law Firm can question the evidence against you and help preserve your driving privileges. Contact us today to set up your free case review.