Recreational marijuana legalization and car accident liability - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Recreational marijuana legalization and car accident liability


Recreation use of marijuana is scheduled to become legal throughout Canada. The federal government will oversee production while each of the provinces shall control and regulate sales to consumers. Ontario has elected to allow merchants to go ahead with online sales beginning this fall, but it has delayed retail sales in stores until the spring to enact additional regulations. Regardless of when marijuana becomes available on a widespread basis, the questions remain about the affect it will have on road and highway accidents once drivers have access to it.

New regulations pertaining to recreational marijuana use

This is one of the reasons the Ontario government regulations pertaining to marijuana legalization prohibit and make illegal its use in the following locations:

  • Public places
  • Motor vehicles
  • Workplaces

Once legalization of recreational use goes into effect, your use of marijuana must be restricted to your home, apartment or the outdoor areas immediately surrounding your place of residence according to the Ontario regulations. Bear in mind the distinction between medical use of marijuana as prescribed by a doctor and recreational use. Medical use is regulated by the federal government while recreational use regulation has been left to provincial governments.

Effects of marijuana use on driving ability

Studies have linked marijuana use with impairment of the cognitive and motor skills needed by drivers to safely operate a motor vehicle. Some of the issues noted by researchers included the following:

  • Impaired ability to react to changing conditions or situations, such as a pedestrian stepping into the street in front of the vehicle
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Inability to maintain a vehicle’s speed or control the vehicle to keep it from veering from its lane of travel
  • Short-term memory and ability to concentrate on tasks are impaired

MADD of Canada suggests that driving while under the influence of marijuana is a factor in a high percentage of fatal motor vehicle collisions. It supports this conclusion with statistics showing that almost 27 percent of fatal accidents were the result of one or more of the drivers being impaired by drugs, and almost half of those individuals tested positive for marijuana.

Making the connection between the use of marijuana by a driver and a collision can be difficult given the fact that THC, the substance in marijuana that causes impairment, is detectable for up to a month after marijuana use. Unlike alcohol where there is a recognized standard for impairment, blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, a similar standard for THC has not been developed, so THC in a driver’s blood does not necessarily mean the driver was impaired.

Reports out of Colorado, where recreational marijuana became available in 2014, show a recent increase in fatal accidents caused by motorists testing positive for THC in their bloodstreams. The levels of THC were found to be higher than the legal limit Colorado law sets as an indicator of impaired driving.

While it is too early to begin predicting how the legalization of recreational use of marijuana will affect accident statistics in Ontario and other provinces throughout Canada, a claim for compensation is a remedy for anyone killed or injured in an accident caused by an impaired driver. Accident victims should seek the advice and guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Ontario personal injury lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling claims for compensation for individuals injured in collisions caused by the negligence of impaired motorists. If you have been injured in a car accident, you should speak to one of our lawyers. Call the Diamond and Diamond 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We offer free consultations and case evaluations to injury victims throughout Ontario.

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