With the legalization of cannabis in Canada came new driving laws defining how much THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, can be in your bloodstream while driving. However, many Canadians don’t think driving under the influence of cannabis is a problem or underestimate how long to wait before hitting the road. Twenty-eight percent of cannabis users in Canada reported driving under the influence at some point1 and 61% think it’s safe to drive after waiting only three hours.2 Read on to learn more about impaired driving and cannabis use laws so that you can be confident that you are driving safely and consuming responsibly.
Impaired driving laws
In Canada, it is illegal to be impaired by cannabis while operating a motorized vehicle, including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles, airplanes and off-road vehicles.3 Cannabis impairs your judgement, decreases your motor coordination and slows your reaction time, all of which are dangerous when you’re behind the wheel. The legal limit is two nanograms of THC per milliliter in your bloodstream; however, for drivers under the age of 21 in Ontario there is a zero-tolerance policy for any amount of THC.3
The penalties for impaired driving increase with the amount of THC found in the blood, starting with a fine of up to $1,000 for the lowest offence and escalating to include immediate driving suspension, higher fines, vehicle impoundment, a criminal record and jail time.4 An impaired driving conviction will also increase your auto insurance rates, as you will likely need to find a new auto insurance carrier who will insure high-risk clients with a considerably higher premium.
It’s also important to know the laws about transporting cannabis in your vehicle. Although it’s legal to travel with cannabis in your car, it can’t be opened or in a spot easily accessible to anyone in the vehicle and must be in its original packaging.3 This law also applies to other motorized vehicles such as boats. Additionally, it is illegal to take any cannabis across the Canadian border, even to a country where it is legal.5
How long does cannabis stay in my system?
There is no exact formula to calculate how long cannabis will stay in your system. The effects can vary depending on the individual, how much they consumed and how they consumed it. Generally, the effects of consuming edibles last longer than those from smoking or vaping cannabis, and effects can last longer for new or infrequent cannabis users.
Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines advise waiting at least six hours before operating a car or machinery.6 However, that’s still not a perfect rule; consuming alcohol and cannabis together increases impairment and can cause it to last longer than six hours.
If you know you will be using cannabis, make alternate travel plans such as public transit, a designated driver, a cab or staying the night. Playing it safe by not driving after consuming cannabis will eliminate the chance of you causing an accident or receiving driving infractions, which come with hefty fines and will likely cause your insurance premium to increase.
If you have questions about your auto insurance policy, call an OTIP broker today at 1-800-267-6847.
1. Public Safety Canada
2. Insurance Bureau of Canada
4. Health Canada
6. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health