Should stoned driving should be treated like drunk driving? A strong majority of Canadians think so.
That’s one of the findings from a new Ipsos Public Affairs poll that quizzed Canadians on their thoughts about marijuana and driving. The poll, commissioned for Global News, found that 80 per cent of Canadians agree (either “strongly” or “somewhat”) with the statement that “driving while impaired by alcohol or by marijuana should be treated equally under the law”.
And while Canadians are in basic agreement about the issue of pot and driving, Ipsos cautions that most don’t think the procedures are in place to catch those who engage in the practice, a suspicion that is based in reality.
Stoned driving is harder to detect…
There are currently no breathalyzer-type tests in use to check if someone is impaired from the effects of marijuana, but progress is being made on several fronts. Engineers at California’s Stanford University have been working on a “potalyzer” that works by detecting THC levels in saliva. Stanford News writer Carrie Kirby says this method may prove to be a practical solution because it can be deployed quickly and can measure the concentration of THC in a person’s system, not just whether or not it is there.
Closer to home, a Burnaby-based company called Cannabix Technologies also appears to be close to commercializing a marijuana breathalyzer. That company recently cheered the most recent efforts of Canada’s task force on marijuana legalization, which supported the development of an “appropriate roadside drug screening device” for detecting THC levels.
That nine person panel was chaired by former Liberal minister Anne McLellan, who admits that Canada is not yet where it needs to be on catching drivers who are high behind the wheel.
“Drug-impaired driving is a problem, is a challenge, here in Canada today,” she told the CBC recently. “That is why the science is very quickly catching up. But are we there yet? No.”
A recent survey from drugabuse.gov found that being under the effects of marijuana make a person twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident. And marijuana has also been the most frequent drug found in the blood systems of those involved in accidents, including fatal ones, but this may be partially attributed to the fact that marijuana can remain in the system of a user for as long as a month.
But the science is not unanimous on the subject. Another large, controlled study conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found no significant risk of crashing could be attributed to the use of cannabis.