Cannabis and driving in Saskatchewan

Apr 6, 2023

A recent article published in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and authored by Thia James discussed the lack of clarity regarding how long it is necessary to abstain from driving after using cannabis or related products.

According to Glenn Boulet, a Saskatoon man who recently failed a roadside cannabis screening test, he waited over 12 hours before driving.

“In Saskatchewan, there is zero tolerance for cannabis use and driving, so if you plan to use cannabis, don’t drive. Whether you smoke it or eat it, for medicinal or recreational purposes, driving high is a DUI,” states the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) website.

When Boulet was pulled over and asked for identification, the police officer told him he smelled of cannabis. In turn, Boulet told the officer he had smoked cannabis earlier that day. In addition, Boulet said he was not given a roadside sobriety test before he went to the police mobile drug and alcohol testing vehicle for a saliva test.

“So they did the test, it came out positive,” he said.

Consequently, Boulet received forms informing him that his vehicle was impounded for three days due to DUI (driving under the influence). Then, he received a letter stating that his licence is subject to a $200 surcharge, and he could appeal for $175. In addition, he received another letter that stated that the cost to retrieve his vehicle would be $175, in addition to storage fees of $200. Finally, he needed to take a course about DUIs.

“So we’re close to $1,000, yet never made it to court, never proven I smoked anything, just that it was in my system,” said Boulet in his interview with the StarPhoenix.

So far, Saskatoon police have not commented on the incident. Bonny Stevenson, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Saskatoon, said that drivers need more education about Saskatchewan’s zero-tolerance legislation for any amount of cannabis when it comes to driving.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand that it’s zero. They feel like there’s some type of buffer in there, like the .04 with alcohol. That zero is a real important factor,” said Stevenson.

SGI spokesman Tyler McMurchy said that existing scientific evidence does not allow sufficient general guidance about how much cannabis can be consumed before it’s unsafe to drive, or how long it is necessary to wait before driving.

“In Saskatchewan, there is zero tolerance for drug-impaired driving, so we always say that people should err on the side of caution,” he wrote.

In an email correspondence with the StarPhoenix, the federal justice department stated that approved police screening devices include the Dräger DrugTest 500 and the SoToxaTM. These devices were approved based on a recommendation from the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, and the government continues to monitor the development of other technologies.

Furthermore, a positive cannabis roadside oral fluid test result does not automatically result in a drug recognition evaluation and a demand for a blood sample. According to SGI, these steps are taken when an officer believes a driver may be impaired to a degree that a criminal charge could be warranted.