Cannabis & Driving

Cannabis Legalization

As Canada continues to adjust to legal cannabis, another major change is happening. Cannabis edibles – foods and drinks that contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana – are coming soon to stores near you. Learn more about consuming cannabis edibles in the Winter 2019 Issue of CAA Saskatchewan Magazine: Think Before You Eat – Why you need to be careful about consuming cannabis edibles.

Cannabis legislation prohibits driving while impaired by alcohol, cannabis or a combination of both. Impaired driving is a serious crime that can threaten you and your loved ones’ safety and that of others on the road. Learn more about Saskatchewan’s legislation in the Winter 2018 Issue of CAA Saskatchewan Magazine: Higher Learning – What you need to know about cannabis legislation and driving in Saskatchewan. The article is about cannabis and driving, how much is too much, and enforcement on the road.

Cannabis and Road Safety

There’s broad scientific agreement that cannabis intoxication can change driver behaviour. Unlike alcohol, which has a profound effect on physical coordination even at relatively low levels, cannabis’s most pronounced effects are on the way a person thinks – and how a driver might react to unexpected occurrences on the road. “Things like memory and concentration are affected. Attention, decision-making, and higher-order planning and execution of complex tasks are also affected,” says Douglas Beirness, senior research and policy analyst with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. “In a driving situation, that’s not going to work real well.”

Young Canadians are more at risk of a vehicle crash even five hours after inhaling cannabis, according to results of a clinical trial conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University, and funded by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

The research found that performance declined significantly, in key areas such as reaction time, even five hours after inhaling the equivalent of less than one typical joint. The participants’ driving performance, which was tested in a driving simulator, deteriorated as soon as they were exposed to the kinds of distractions common on the road. 

The peer-reviewed study was published online on October 15, 2018 at CMAJ Open, an online sister journal to CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The trial examined the impact of cannabis on the driving ability of 18 to 24-year-old occasional users. CAA polling has found that a significant number of young Canadians– one in five – believe they are as good or better drivers stoned as they are sober.

“This new trial provides important Canadian evidence that cannabis can affect the skills needed to drive safely even five hours after consuming,” said Jeff Walker, CAA chief strategy officer. “The message is simple. If you consume, don’t drive. Find another way home or stay where you are.”

Read the CAA Saskatchewan news release entitled:
Young Canadians face heightened crash risk after consuming cannabis, study finds McGill trial shows significant decline in driving ability even after five hours.

Cannabis does impair your ability to drive. It can affect your:

  • Coordination: Steering and other car instrument handling can be diminished.
  • Reaction time: Drivers on cannabis are slower to respond to road situations.
  • Concentration: Attention can greatly diminish under the influence of the drug.
  • Decision-making: Cannabis compromises your ability to make sound driving choices.
  • Distances: Impairs ability to judge distance to other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

cannabis affects your abilities

CAA Saskatchewan’s Cannabis-Impaired Driving Campaign

From a road safety perspective, cannabis is already second only to alcohol as the drug most frequently found among drivers involved in collisions and drivers charged with impaired driving. It is also the most frequent drug found mixed with alcohol usage in vehicle collisions.

Driving high is driving impaired. Plan a safe ride home – taxi, public transit, ridesharing, or have a designated driver. Use the same strategies you would use if you were alcohol-impaired. CAA’s Cannabis-Impaired Driving Campaign is designed to educate young Canadians about the danger of cannabis-impaired driving through a surprising role reversal of millennials talking to their parents about driving impaired and offering to be their designated driver.

The videos below are a part of CAA Saskatchewan’s Cannabis-Impaired Driving Campaign. Millennials have grown up with anti-impaired driving messages on TV, radio and in school. They know the risks about driving impaired and have made impaired driving socially unacceptable. We’ve got a lot to learn from Millennials.

Tools, resources, and laws and regulations about drugged driving:

Government of Saskatchewan: Cannabis in Saskatchewan, Cannabis and Driving
Government of Canada: Cannabis in Canada
Public Safety: Don’t Drive High Campaign
Drug Free Kids Canada: Toolkit for Talking to Your Kids about Cannabis
Health Canada: Driving While Impaired by Drugs
Justice Canada: Addressing Drug-Impaired Driving
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP): Penalties For Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driving
Canada Border Services Agency: Travellers and Cannabis Legalization