Don’t legalize pot before figuring out how to deal with stoned drivers: poll

WATCH ABOVE: A new poll finds a majority of Canadians don't believe the government has done enough research on the impact of marijuana consumption on road safety.

Over 80 per cent of Canadians think that it would be a mistake to legalize marijuana before we have a reliable system for testing stoned drivers, a poll shows.

Driving while impaired by a drug is just as illegal as driving drunk, but testing drivers for cannabis is more challenging than testing them for alcohol. As well, there’s no consensus about where a bloodstream limit for THC should be set for drivers.

“Until Canadians are convinced that the legalization of marijuana isn’t going to make our roads less safe, we should just put the brakes on legalizing marijuana until we’ve got this figured out,” said Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos Public Affairs, summarizing the poll’s findings.

READ: 1 in 4 Canadians admit to driving while legally drunk, half think limit is too low

In a report made public earlier this month, a federal panel studying legalization said that science doesn’t yet support having a legal limit for marijuana consumption, as we do for alcohol.

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WATCH: Toronto Police are joining forces across the country in testing out drug-detecting devices on drivers as part of a pilot project that began Monday. But as Cindy Pom reports, the pilot project is already facing criticism

Toronto police test drug-detecting devices on drivers
Toronto police test drug-detecting devices on drivers

A Forum poll published last fall showed that about 60 per cent of Canadians were in favour of legalizing marijuana.

Police forces across the country, including the Toronto and Vancouver forces, are trying out devices to test drivers for drug exposure under a program funded by the federal public safety department.

READ: What happens when you’re caught driving stoned? Canada’s Supreme Court may soon tell us


The survey was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Global News between Dec. 16 and Dec. 19.

It showed that many Canadians have a less harsh view of stoned driving than drunk driving — 25 per cent of all respondents, and 40 per cent of those aged 18-34, said that driving after smoking marijuana was more acceptable than driving drunk.

WATCH: With legalization imminent, driving while high the new challenge for police. Mike Drolet reports.

With legalization imminent, driving while high the new challenge for police
With legalization imminent, driving while high the new challenge for police

Many said that stoned driving didn’t count as impaired driving: 19 per cent of people in general, 24 per cent of men, 33 per cent of Millennials, and 44 per cent of those with less than a high school education.

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READ: Two decisions Parliament will have to make about pot-impaired driving

“Until the government has a standardized way of detecting when somebody is impaired by marijuana, people will continue to have these attitudes. To say, ‘They’re not going to catch me because they don’t have the ability to do it,'”  Simpson says.

READ: Ottawa expects 600,000 more people to smoke pot after it’s legalized

WATCH: Police officers are being given a new tool to catch impaired driving. As Paul Johnson reports, it’s part of a nationwide pilot project.

New roadside tool for police
New roadside tool for police

Drug-impaired driving has had close attention recently as Canada prepares to legalize recreational marijuana.

As attitudes to marijuana soften and pot becomes more accessible though an illegal but semi-tolerated network of dispensaries, more people are using the drug and driving. In 2015, twice as many Ontario residents reported driving after using cannabis as did in 2010, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

“The survey shows that people are doing it, and legalizing the use of marijuana likely means that it could become more widespread,” Simpson says.

READ: Legal pot in Canada could sell for $5 a gram — or less

About 10 per cent of respondents, and 15 per cent of men and 17 per cent of Millennials, said they had driven after smoking enough pot to be impaired. (Interestingly, only 20 per cent of the group who had driven while stoned said they had ever driven drunk.)

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WATCH: It was a bizarre and contentious roadside check stop that left some drivers questioning Manitoba Public Insurance’s methods. Now documents obtained by Global News show proper protocol may not have been followed during the survey. Global’s Brittany Greenslade reports.

Contentious roadside drug survey may not have followed protocol: documents
Contentious roadside drug survey may not have followed protocol: documents

This poll was conducted between Dec. 16 and Dec. 19, 2016, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel who were interviewed online. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.