Why has B.C. not laid any drug impaired driving charges?

Published: July 31, 2019

Updated: September 1, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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Are police in British Columbia being too lenient on drug impaired drivers or simply not doing enough to catch them?

Earlier this week, the policing effort in the province was put under a spotlight after police failed to charge a Vancouver Island driver who reportedly tossed a lit joint from his window when he saw them. While the driver received $900 in fines, not of the punishments were related to drugs.

Under B.C. and Canada law, driving and consuming cannabis is an offence, as is operating a vehicle whilst high. Vancouver lawyer Sarah Leamon told Global News that B.C. has not issued a single ticket for drug-related driving offenses.

“Police in British Columbia have not charged anybody criminally with any type of cannabis-impaired driving offences since the laws have been introduced,” she said.

“Other provinces have seen charges. And I don’t think it’s because British Columbians are extremely diligent and law-abiding, although it would be great if they were, but more having to do with the attitude of, perhaps, police forces around the province.”

In the same time since cannabis legalized was in October 2017, Ontario has charged 100 drivers and Quebec has laid 32 charges. Alberta has issued 8 charges.

However, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said those numbers are not entirely explanatory.

“People have been ticketed here in British Columbia,” said Farnworth. However, he added the province’s bar for approving charges is higher and officers are able to asses the situations.

“These are decisions that are made by the police based on the circumstances and the evidence they encounter,” he said.