Health Canada survey reveals 39 per cent of youth have driven while high

Dec 22, 2017 | News

Marijuana Legislation: People roll a marijuana joint on the informal cannabis holiday, 4/20.

FILE PHOTO — People smoke marijuana on the informal cannabis holiday, 4/20, in Boston

By: Alan Sebastian

A survey commissioned by Health Canada, claims that 39 per cent of people admit to driving within two hours after smoking pot.

The results from the survey conducted last spring came from 3,600 people who participated across Canada. Respondents had to answer approximately 70 questions regarding the use of cannabis.

The survey was conducted as a step to manage the sale of legal marijuana along with implementing control of impaired driving laws in Canada.

“Driving while impaired by cannabis or other drugs is dangerous and illegal. The message is simple – don’t drive high,” said Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Earlier in December, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada (MADD) sent a letter to all senators urging them to pass Bill C-46, which deals with offenses and procedures relating to drug-impaired driving.

“We hope the Senate will absolutely approve the bill before July. Regulations for driving under the influence of marijuana must be same as the existing regulations for drunk driving,” said Caroline Swinson, spokesperson and board member of MADD.

Results from the survey reveals that 43 per cent of users between the ages of 20-24 admit getting behind the wheel within two hours of smoking pot; 2.8 per cent of 16-19-year-old users admit to driving under influence.

About half the users in both age categories admitted to doing so within the past 30 days.

“We need laws and public education and awareness programs directed at the specific age groups trough TV and radio or home media,” said Swinson.

When respondents were asked how long a person should wait before driving, the most popular response was “it depends” (35.7 per cent) followed by “don’t know” (23.5 per cent).

The survey said that approximately 50 per cent of pot smokers didn’t think cannabis impaired their ability to drive, even though 75 per cent of all respondents agreed that cannabis impaired driving ability.

Results showed 21.7 per cent of all respondents had used cannabis in the past 12 months.

High by association

Safety concerns extends beyond smokers.

More than a quarter of individuals who identified as non-pot smokers admitted to having been in a vehicle driven by someone who had lit up within the past two hours.

Guidelines released by a panel of health experts recommended cannabis users to wait at least six hours or more before driving, depending on the specific product used.

Experts also warn that combining alcohol and cannabis leads to greater impairment.

“Lots of people will be spending the holiday seasons with friends and family. It’s important to be mindful as you party. So, make sure to plan ahead and stay safe as you enjoy your holidays,” Swinson said when asked how to avoid accidents during the holiday season.