A 28-year-old woman has been released from Saskatoon police custody after being accused of driving high and causing the death of a young girl.
Baeleigh Maurice, 9, was riding her scooter at a marked crosswalk on 33rd Street West in September 2021 when she was hit by a pickup truck. A driver was charged on Friday with impaired operation while exceeding the prescribed blood-drug concentration of THC causing death.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that causes a user to feel high.
In an email Monday, police confirmed the driver was released on a promise to appear in Saskatoon provincial court on April 12. Her identity has not been made public by the police and won’t be available from the court ahead of the April appearance.
The woman’s charge is the first of its kind laid by Saskatoon police and possibly the province.
Defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle told Global News he’s not aware of any THC-related impaired driving causing death cases in Canada.
“There’s no question that this case could be precedent-setting depending on how it is defended,” said Pfefferle, who is not affiliated with the Maurice case.
He noted how defence lawyers, cannabis advocates and others raised concerns prior to new impaired driving legislation introduced in 2018. They argued that unlike alcohol, there is a lesser correlation between levels of THC in a person’s body and their level of impairment.
Pfefferle said the legislation is “potentially ripe” for constitutional challenges.
“Is this a case that the facts support impairment? Or is it just a situation where we’re talking about the readings?” he asked.
Bonny Stevenson, president of MADD Saskatoon, said she doesn’t feel people are getting the message behind the Saskatchewan government’s zero tolerance approach to cannabis.
She’s attended numerous check stops with Saskatoon police and Corman Park police. In her experience, people are penalized for THC at twice the rate of alcohol — or more.
“We always keep hearing the words ‘it’s legal,”’ she said. “Yeah it’s legal. So is alcohol, but there’s a level at which they deem you impaired, and for cannabis, it’s zero tolerance.”
Saskatchewan’s zero tolerance policy means a failed roadside evaluation or any level of cannabis detectable on a testing device.
“Those roadside saliva testers are meant to only detect recent use,” said SGI spokesperson Tyler McMurchy. “It’s not going to detect if you were using last week or last month.”
Cannabis-impaired driving can result in license suspensions, vehicle seizures, fines and jail time.