No one knows how big a problem drug-impaired driving will be once recreational marijuana is legalized in this country.
However, the fear among medicinal cannabis users is that, starting Oct. 17, they will no longer be allowed on the road and will pay the price when it comes to their freedom.
“I’ve been diagnosed with progressive (multiple sclerosis), Crohn’s disease and nodules in my lungs.”
At 39 years old, Jamie Novotny said he is only now living his best life after discovering medicinal marijuana in 2014.
“When I’m on the medication, I’m functioning at a higher level,” Novotny said.
The father of three, from Prince Albert, said he’s now worried that he will be robbed of his reclaimed independence and fulfilling work that requires some driving once recreational cannabis becomes legal, since the standing THC levels in Novotny’s system could land him in some serious trouble with the law if he’s caught behind the wheel.
“My nanograms are always going to be way over,” he explained. “Anywhere from 25 to 80 nanograms at any given time, but I’m not intoxicated at all.”
That’s 40 times higher than the threshold set out by the Canadian government. Drivers with a THC level of two nanograms could face a fine of up to $1,000, whereas five nanograms or more could lead to criminal charges.
“Medicinal users, because of the amounts and quantities that they use, may be a higher THC level than a recreational user that is showing signs of impairment,” said Saskatoon-based defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle.
“Where they’re showing no signs of impairment and are, in fact, not impaired at all.”
New data released on Monday by Statistics Canada showed impaired driving rates in Saskatchewan dropped five per cent last year, while drug-impaired driving charges increased 43 per cent in that same timeframe.
Novotny said he would never put his safety or others at risk.
“Without the medicine, I probably shouldn’t be driving because I couldn’t hold the brake down, but with the medicine I can do anything I need to do.”
Still, Pfefferle said Canadians need to be responsible for their actions, prescribed drug or not, while operating a motor vehicle.
“Whether you’re a medicinal user or you’re a recreational user, there’s still the onus upon you to say ‘am I sober?’ before I go behind the wheel.”