Pubdate: Wed, 15 Nov 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Clare Clancy
Page: A1


NDP proposes penalties for being high at the wheel in preparation for
legal weed

The NDP introduced new legislation Tuesday that aims to fill the gap
in impaired-driving rules ahead of cannabis legalization across Canada.

The federal government has proposed specific drug limits as well as
penalties for drivers who break the law. Ottawa has also touted the
development of a roadside drug test in preparation for the July 1
milestone when cannabis becomes legal.

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Bill 29 - which
updates the Traffic Safety Act - will reduce the number of impaired
drivers on the road and encourage safe driving if passed.

"Other jurisdictions have seen an increase in impaired driving when
cannabis has become legal," Mason said, adding the province will roll
out a public education campaign. "The real risk here is that people
don't feel cannabis is quite as bad or . . . is impairing a substance
as alcohol. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Alberta's rules are a response to federal legislation and pending
changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Under Bill C-46, drivers would
face a maximum $1,000 fine if their blood tested positive for two to
five nanograms per millilitre of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

For drivers with more than five ng/mL of THC detected on a first
impaired driving offence, a minimum $1,000 fine would be imposed, with
increasingly harsher penalties such as jail time for subsequent offences.

The rules also impose penalties for combined alcohol-cannabis use of
2.5 ng/mL of THC with a blood-alcohol level of .05.

THC is main psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Those are among the changes that would take effect when the federal
government has its legislation in place.

Police don't have a roadside test for cannabis impairment yet, but
saliva-based screening has been under development.

Mason said drivers shouldn't consume cannabis at least 24 hours before
getting behind the wheel.

"The cannabis enforcement mirrors what we do with alcohol," he

There would be zero tolerance for new drivers under Alberta's
graduated licensing rules.

Alberta's legislation will also include other changes to take effect
Feb. 1.

Currently, impaired drivers with a blood alcohol measuring over .08
face an indefinite suspension. The Traffic Safety Act will be updated
to impose a fixed-term suspension - drivers who are impaired by
alcohol or drugs will lose their licences for 90 days.

After the suspension period, drivers will be able to choose between a
one-year ignition interlock program or they can wait out the year-long

The province had until May 2018 to change the rule in response to an
Alberta Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year that found indefinite
suspensions violated Charter rights.

The Alberta Motor Transport Association will push for a zerotolerance
approach to cannabis use among professional drivers, said spokesman
Dan Duckering.

Brenda Johnson, spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
Canada, praised the legislation, but said the legalization of cannabis
will make roads more dangerous.

"We've dealt with alcohol for over 30 years now in this country and
our roads still aren't safer," she said.

A separate piece of legislation on cannabis sales is expected
Thursday. The government is opting for a hybrid system including
private stores and online sales that are controlled by government,
according to sources.
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