Feds give Saskatchewan $5.4 million to combat cannabis-related impaired driving

Published: August 31, 2019

Updated: September 1, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Saskatchewan has become the latest province to receive federal government money to help its efforts to combat drug-impaired driving. $5.4 million has been given to the province, even though cannabis-related impaired driving charges are rare, even with last October’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

While the federal government is seeking to clamp down on drug-impaired driving, it seems the problem is not as bad as drunk driving. During the first six months of the enaction of the Cannabis Act, RCMP in Saskatchewan have laid just seven charges for marijuana-related impaired driving.

During the same period, RCMP issued 596 tickets related to impaired driving through alcohol. When legalization was imminent last year, Regine Police Chief Evan Bray said he was concerned bout the “hidden costs” of legalization, suggesting more impaired driving situations. 10 months after legalization, Bray admits he may have overstated the situation.

“The sky didn’t fall,” said Bray. “I don’t think I can say that we have,” said Bray when asked if police in Regina police have charged anybody with cannabis-related impaired driving since legalization.

Cst. Ryan Ehalt of the Saskatoon Police Service also confirmed the city’s force has not laid any charges for cannabis-related impaired driving offences. However, he says the SPS does not record drug-related impairment specifically but instead groups it with alcohol and combination impairment.

“Beginning October 17, 2018, there have been 194 Impaired charges laid for impairment by alcohol alone.  During that same time period there have been 20 Impaired charges laid for impairment that has been attributed to drug/alcohol,” said Ehalt in an email to CBC.

Bray said cannabis can be a factor in alcohol-related impaired driving but reconfirmed no marijuana-specific charges have been laid.

“We’ve had many drug-impaired driving charges, but usually meth, cocaine or other drugs,” said Bray. “We’ve had people that we’ve charged with impaired driving due to alcohol where we know they also had consumed marijuana and I think that’s one thing that we have to remember.”