News / Ottawa

Proposed limits for THC blood level while driving 'would criminalize many': Lawyers

Harrison Jordan said anyone who used on a weekly or daily basis would be at risk because studies have shown the higher THC levels can linger for a long time in regular users.

A group of lawyers believes the government's proposed marijuana limits for driving are too low.

DARRYL DYCK / The Canadian Press

A group of lawyers believes the government's proposed marijuana limits for driving are too low.

A group of lawyers are encouraging the government to rethink proposed limits for cannabis use behind the wheel, worried people could be charged based on pot they consumed days prior.

As of press time, about 50 lawyers had signed onto to a letter sent to Health Canada about the proposed changes. They want the government to back down from a proposed criminal offence that would charge anyone with more than two nanograms of tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) in a millilitre of blood.

That level of THC would be punishable only by a fine and treated as a lesser offence, anyone with more than five nanograms in their system would be subject to measure more in line with current impaired driving laws for alcohol, which can include jail time.

Harrison Jordan, an articling student in cannabis law at Lewin Sagara LLP who helped organize the letter, said the lower limit risks netting anyone who uses cannabis, especially medical users.

“This would criminalize many Canadians including the 200,000 who are currently legally authorized to use cannabis,” he said. “It’s overbroad.”

Jordan said anyone who used on a weekly or daily basis would be at risk because he argues studies have shown the higher THC levels can linger for a long time in regular users.

“A significant number of users, after abstaining for seven days or more, will have two nanograms in their blood.”

He said this would be less of an issue if the law distinguished between medical use and recreational use—but it doesn’t.

Metro attempted to contact someone in the Health Minister’s office, but did not receive a response Monday, as most federal public servants were not working.

In their background on the proposed legislation, they said the levels were chosen based on available research.  

“These elements were included in the proposed legislation after careful consideration of the available scientific evidence on cannabis and driving,” reads the government’s report on the issue.

Jordan acknowledges setting a limit is difficult, but said this one is simply too low and this will likely create a court challenge.  

“It’s going to be a challenge because it’s a different substance than alcohol. It doesn’t have that correlation coefficient that alcohol use at 0.08 always has.”

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