An estimated 20- 30% percentage of the Canadian population currently recreationally consumes marijuana and 59% are in support of potential legalization. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of the current Liberal government, have spoken about their desire and intention to decriminalizing its use, and even go as far as legalizing it. Trudeau has set up a task force with the provinces to figure out how to implement this promise. The Task Force will seek input on the design of a new system to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to marijuana. The advice of the task-force will be considered by the Government of Canada as the new framework is developed for marijuana legalization and regulation.
The looming potential legalization of marijuana introduces a problem. While a large portion of the Canadian population historically has partook in the consumption of marijuana, and presumably a number of them have also driven while under the influence of marijuana, it has not been the responsibility of law enforcement to monitor and assess the extent of intoxication, as marijuana has always been a prohibited substance. However with the prospective of marijuana legalization, law enforcement must consider how they would regulate driving under the influence of marijuana, much in the same way that they regulate driving under the influence of alcohol.
The difficultly is that marijuana unlike alcohol is unique in how it gets into your system, how long it stays there and the extent to which someone would be impaired after use. The American Automobile Association disputes any suggestion of a scientific link between specific concentrations of THC and impairment. There is no evidence that a positive THC saliva or blood test alone are reliable indicators of impairment. It’s suggested that if law enforcement has collected other evidence of impairment, a positive blood or saliva test can serve as a supplementary piece of evidence. The issues are tolerance and how short an amount of time THC remains in the blood, while heavy users can consume large amounts with few signs of impairment, a infrequent users can be heavily impaired at low concentrations.
Advocates of legalization say that the determining factor should be impairment and not past use, that should be the deciding factor in impaired-driving convictions. It is not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is currently testing four devices that typically use saliva to detect THC. Critics question how, with the ability of people under the influence of marijuana, to evade detection by law enforcement, we can consider legalization. Trudeau’s task force will address this challenging issue. There is little consensus on what levels constitute impairment, especially considering the varied response to the drug based on the experience of the user.
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