Ontario Improving Road Safety Ahead of Cannabis Legalization

NewPenaltiesImpairedDriver_RoadTodayTo help keep roads safe, Ontario plans to introduce new measures to make drug-impaired driving laws even tougher.

On September 18th, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, announced in Toronto  that Ontario plans to introduce legislation this fall that would increase the consequences and costs for those who drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. The measures add to Ontario’s comprehensive cannabis plan, introduced in advance of the federal government’s plans to legalize recreational cannabis by July 2018.

In Ontario, the penalties for impaired driving are already among the toughest in Canada. The province has been working closely with public health and safety experts, police, and federal and municipal governments to develop the proposed measures, which build on Ontario’s recent action to align penalties for drug-impaired driving with those already in place for drunk drivers.

New, tougher laws against drug-impaired driving will include zero tolerance for:

  • Young drivers aged 21 and under
  • Novice drivers — G1, G2, M1 and M2 licence holders
  • All commercial drivers.

Zero tolerance means that drivers should not get behind the wheel if they have any detectable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system. For cannabis, the federal government will be approving a screening device and setting the thresholds for detectable presence in the coming months.

Ontario’s legislation would also increase monetary penalties for all drivers who fail, or refuse to perform, a sobriety test.

As the federal legalization of cannabis approaches, Ontario plans to convene a summit in the fall of 2017 with policing partners, public health and other stakeholders. With the goal of keeping communities safe, the summit will be an opportunity to identify the resources necessary to address illegal storefront cannabis sales, proposed provincial offences, enforcement, opportunities for coordination and collaboration, and associated resource requirements.