Is driving stoned as bad as driving drunk? Apparently, not in Canada!

I was deeply saddened by a recent news story about the acquittal of a Saskatchewan driver on impaired driving charges – even after she admitted to smoking pot 2.5 hours prior and failed coordination tests. The judge said that while the prosecutor was able to prove that there was marijuana in her system, he failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the pot actually impaired her ability to operate a vehicle.

And this isn’t the first case where a pot user has been acquitted of impaired driving. There have been similar acquittals in other jurisdictions.

In our own personal impaired driving story we ran into the same issue. The blood analysis showed that the driver who killed Mamma K had marijuana in his system. Score, right? To me, it should have been a done deal right there. But nope. The prosecutor told us that the marijuana wouldn’t be taken into account because there is no way (yet) to PROVE that the pot impaired his driving.

Seems to me Canada’s drug-impaired driving laws, which were introduced in 2008, need their own overhaul. According to the news story, MADD Canada representatives and advocates are calling on federal lawmakers to adopt drug-intake thresholds similar to the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit which would thereby remove some of the subjectivity contained in Canada’s drug-impaired driving laws.

Yeah think?!?!

I guess there are many jurisdictions in the United States, Western Europe and Australia that have already adopted such standards. Perhaps we should follow their responsible lead?

The best part of the article (or at least most laughable) was the comment by a spokesman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson who said “Our government takes impaired driving very seriously. This is why we increased the penalties for impaired driving while giving police new tools to better investigate drug-impaired driving.” (Source: news story)

Barf! Seriously?!?!?!

As you know from my emails with Minister Nicholson’s office (mine to himhis response to me…5 months latermy heated rebuttal NOTE: these links all open as PDFs), his comment falls on deaf ears from me.

First of all, we didn’t only need increased penalties for impaired drivers…we needed MINIMUM sentences as well. What’s the point of increasing maximums when they are NEVER used??? Just to “look” good???

Second of all, better tools for police to investigate drug-impaired driving are rendered USELESS if violations can’t be ENFORCED?! DUH! You need both the laws and the teeth to uphold it. Otherwise, what’s the point.

I find it so frustrating when I read comments such as that because it does not speak to how much this government is doing. It speaks to how much this government wants to LOOK like its doing. But in reality, it only showcases how OUT OF TOUCH the government is on what the real issues are, how Canadians are being affected and what impactful solutions need to be implemented.

What needs to happen for our Government to stand up, take notice and make real change? How many more innocent people have to die or be injured? I’m at a loss.

What do you think? Do you think driving stoned is as bad as driving drunk? How can we identify an appropriate impaired level for driving under the influence of drugs? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

On August 1, 2009, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

Support MADD Canada and follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@maddcanada), YouTube, and on the Web.

More blog deliciousness here:

  • I am so pumped. I just downloaded Evernote and then came across Kristin Nador’s post on using Evernote to increase your blogging productivity – fabulous tips and tricks. I am so excited to get started!
  • Jenny Hansen started it. Now I want me a QR code of my own! Got yours?
  • Very interesting post by Nathan Bransford who thinks you should NOT send your Tweets to Facebook. What do you think? I am not so sure because I have found a number of fabulous blog posts etc this way so it’s not a deterrent for me. Join him in the comments for discussion.


  1. here here Natalie. we have to do the work to show the impact of blood levels for pot on driving ability. i can’t believe it’s not done yet.

    • I know Louise. I would think it being an illegal substance would be enough but apparently it isn’t. The studies or whatever they need…must happen and soon! Because we all know when a person is “high” they are most definitely “impaired”!

  2. theinnerwildkat says:

    I think driving under the influence of anything is bad. How can they differentiate from one impairment to the next? What a travesty of justice. A life lost is still gone and can never be brought back. If an impairment due to drugs and alcohol was the cause, then there should definitely be consequences.

  3. Are there actually still people out there who don’t think marijuana impairs your judgment? What planet have they been living on? Study after study shows the negative effect of marijuana on your brain. Does Canada need Cheech & Chong to come testify? Should we toss those legislators around the basement card table of Eric’s residence in That 70s Show and let them catch a whiff? Haven’t they seen Refer Madness?!!!

    Of course, there should be laws against driving while stoned. I did a little research, though, and it isn’t as easy to measure this substance in the blood as alcohol, and experts are still debating what levels are safe and what aren’t. Medical professionals, however, all concur that it impacts judgment. The legal system just needs to work out a reasonable measurement. My home state of Texas has laws against marijuana possession, so any amount of pot ON you or IN you is illegal.

    • theinnerwildkat says:

      Oh, Julie… The Cheech and Chong reference surprised a snort out of me. I know Florida and Illinois have similar laws.

    • I know Julie. I was stunned when I read the article. Like are you for real? But it does come down to what they can prove and they have not proven yet that pot impairs your driving and more importantly, what level impairs a person to what degree. And that’s what’s needed. Here’s hoping they get it figured out SOON!!!

      Nice…I love Texas!!! ON you or IN you – hubby and I were just talking about that. If you can’t make impaired driving charged, why aren’t they charge for having an illegal substance IN them? At least that’s something…

      Our laws need to get up to speed…jeepers!

  4. prudencemacleod says:

    This is nuts. Sorry folks, safe levels? The only safe level is 0.00 That’s my belief on this thing. Zero tolerance is the only sure way to go. I have no issue with folks drinking or having a toke, but stay the hell out of the car when you do. How hard can this be really?
    If I’d been drinking or if I’d had a draw a few days ago I’d be dead. I was sober and alert so I was able to react to a situation and am still here to tell the tale.

    So, Nat Honey, who do I have to shoot to get on that circle of friends of yours?

    • LOL, Pru, I’m not on Nat’s circle of friends, either! I think it’s just a blog updating thing. She’ll get to us. 😉

      • prudencemacleod says:

        Nope, I think we have to go to her house and camp in her kitchen until she makes this right. hehehe

      • DANG…I am an idiot. LOL!! It’s just moved to the TOP of my blog priority list. I cannot believe I’ve left my biggest supporters and blog BFFs out in the cold…sorry ladies…ALL over it! MUAH!

    • AMEN Prudence. I couldn’t agree more. WHY RISK IT?!?! And thank GOODNESS you are here to share your story…phew!!!!! How hard can this be…I love that question. It’s funny, I’ve been asking it a lot lately it seems.

      WAHAHA!! Girl, I haven’t updated that list in FOREVER…I think since I relaunched over a year ago. I’ll put updating it to the top of the list and GET ON it…MUAH!!

  5. Reblogged this on Kristy K. James and commented:
    Sorry if this offends those who want marijuana legalized. But if you’re going to use the ‘people who smoke pot drive safer’ argument, I’m going to post stuff like this…because driving impaired – whatever you’re using- means you aren’t driving as safely as someone who ISN’T impaired.

    I smoked pot a handful of times as a teen. I KNOW it slows you down…and makes you tired. That’s why I was never impressed with it.

  6. I get so P.O.’d at the people who say pot-impaired drivers drive better than drunk drivers! And with gutless wonder governments who can’t pull their heads out of the sand and make REAL laws. You’re right…it’s about ‘looking’ like they care.

    Just like I said when I reblogged this…I tried pot half a dozen times when I was a kid. It DID slow my reaction time, It caused me to get distracted…and it made me tired. That’s why I never liked the stuff. What in the heck is so great about feeling like you didn’t get enough sleep?

    Thanks for the post, Natalie.

    • I hear ya Kristy! I tried pot in my youth (a few more time than “just a few”) and there’s NO DOUBT it impairs your ability to react, think quickly etc…it impairs your judgement so people have no business getting behind the wheel stoned…period!

      Awwww…thank YOU for the reblog girl – totally appreciate!

  7. Aw, Natalie, this is frustrating indeed! We need stricter laws enforcing pot smoking impaired driving. Like Prudence, I don’t care what people do off the road. When you’re behind the wheel, even after taking prescription medications that mess you up, it’s wrong. I won’t drive after taking a pain med because I know my reaction times are sloooooooow. I wish others would take into account that it’s not just them on the road, it’s a whole mess of other people, too. As with impaired drivers, I think stoned drivers are selfish bastards and the laws need to be changed.

    • I am the exact same Tameri. I am very careful. I’ve even called hubby (when we were dating) to drive me home after taking cold medication that left me feeling very “funny”! I can’t imagine getting behind the wheel of a car and endangering myself and others. Why?! It’s so easy to take a cab, call a friend, or whatever…

      To drive drunk or stoned is the most selfish act decision anyone can make…if you want to risk your own life, have at er’. But to put other innocent people at risk is disgusting!

      Here Here – the laws do need to change!

  8. ANY…A.N.Y. …impairment to driving safely should be considered illegal. If that impairment results in an injury or fatality, the person should go to jail. Period. I don’t care if you’re texting on your cell (you should see the A$$-h0les in our area), falling asleep at the wheel (which has been proven to be just as bad of an impairment as being drunk), or you’ve inhaled/ingested a substance. When you turn the key in the ignition, your sacred duty is to drive with ALL of your mental acuity and attention on the road. You are driving a 1-ton weapon of destruction. If you’re not up to it, DON’T DRIVE. Not enough people realize this, but they need to WAKE UP.

    Okay, I’m done. 😉

  9. That’s just ridiculous! Let’s make as much noise as we can about this.

  10. Wow, Natalie. Such a sad story!

    I agree with you. Impaired driving is impaired, and it should be punished or better yet, prevented. Thank you for your ongoing advocacy. You just never know how many lives you’ll touch, or even save. *HUGS*

  11. Karen McFarland says:

    You know, way back when, during drivers Ed in school, we were taught that any vehicle will instantly become a killing machine. That’s how important it is to remain sober and alert behind the wheel. It is unfortunate that we have to make laws in order for people to act responsibly. If those laws do not exist or are not inforced, our world would become total mayhem. And there are always those that will push the limit to see how much they can get away with, especially if they know ahead of time they won’t be punished for their actions. It’s a vicious cycle. I have the upmost respect for you Natalie and others that persist in the struggle to pressure these lawmakers to uphold the law, thus making our world a safer place to live. Thank you. 🙂

  12. Anyone driving impaired for whatever reason must come off the streets and highways. I grit my teeth when I see individuals playing high speed tag on the freeways and wonder what they are high on–it certainly can’t be high on life or they’d want to stay alive and live life–not kill each other and who knows how many others. Impairment is impairment and it must stop. Thanks for keeping up a great fight, Natalie.

    • I hear ya Sheri. There is NOTHING worse than seeing people PLAYING God with the lives of others on our highways and roads…because that is exactly what a person who drives impaired, texting, sleepy, recklessly or is just plain distracted is doing…playing GOD! And I wonder how they’d like if it I got hammered and drove around the neighbourhood streets of their loved ones…

      I can guarantee you, they wouldn’t like it one bit…but yet they’ll do it to others. Makes no sense.

      Here’s to the “light” coming on for everyone someday!

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