Overall drug-impaired driving on the rise

Mar 19, 2019

According to a recent report from the Edmonton Police Commission, Edmonton police recorded less than 100 instances of cannabis-impaired driving in 2018. Shortly after cannabis legalization, the Edmonton Police Service marked the police reports in which police officers indicated they believed that the driver was operating the vehicle under the influence of cannabis. The cannabis-related impaired driving statistics were compiled in order to determine the effects of cannabis legalization on the number of impaired driving cases. Prior to this procedure, cases of suspected impairment were categorized as either alcohol- or drug-related, without specifying cannabis in the records.

According to the results of the report, the percentage of drug-impaired driving has increased from 5.1% to 12.2% since 2016. According to previous commission results, impaired driving overall has been decreasing since 2012, but in 2018, there was a small increase of 0.8%.

“The thing that really concerns me about cannabis isn’t necessarily the crime but it’s the driving part… I don’t think we have solved that and as you can see, when we look at impaired driving, it’s not just generally alcohol, it’s not just generally marijuana, it’s generally drugs and alcohol.”

Dale McFee, Chief of Edmonton Police as reported in The Edmonton Journal

Cal Shafer, Edmonton Police strategy analyst, said while presenting the findings of the report to the commission, “That could be cannabis, that could be other drugs, it could be that we had a substantial increase in our members who are trained … and better able to detect and investigate those events.”

The report reveals that the impact of cannabis has been minimal on the incidence of impaired driving. However, according to the analysis, the supply chain shortage needs to be taken into consideration when examining these data. Due to the shortage of cannabis, retailers have only been provided with 20% of sale orders.

These results correlate to the numbers compiled by Canadian police in November of 2018, one month after legalization of cannabis. According to the statistics reported by CBC News, police forces across Canada, including Manitoba RCMP, Vancouver police, and Toronto police had carried out several cannabis-impaired driving investigations in the first months of cannabis legalization. The results of these investigations did not find any significant increase in the number of incidents of cannabis-impaired driving. However, there is a record of traffic-related tickets issued because cannabis was not properly stored or passengers were consuming it in the vehicle.

Canadian police have not seen a spike in cannabis-impaired driving one month since legalization, but there needs to be more awareness of laws around storing cannabis in vehicles and passengers smoking it, law enforcement officials say.