One cannabis-impaired driving charge since legalization: MHPS

By Taylor Chartrand
April 25, 2019 - 4:49pm Updated: April 25, 2019 - 7:05pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB  - Since legalization, Alberta's RCMP reported a spike in cannabis-impaired driving charges, with 58 from October 17, 2018 to April 10, 2019. 

There were just 32 in the same time from a year previous.

But, for the Medicine Hat Police Service, that's not the case.

Cannabis-impaired driving hasn't really increased here at all.

Sergeant Clarke White of the MHPS said they've only charged one person for cannabis-impaired driving.

"Specific to cannabis, for 2019, we've laid one charge," explained White. "So, just the one since legalization. If you want to compare it to 2018, we laid 5-drug impaired charges, two of those were cannabis-related. The other ones were methamphetamine or prescription drugs."

In addition, White says they've only issued a handful of tickets for things such as cannabis being improperly stored in a vehicle.

"We've had the odd-ticket issued for having cannabis within the reach of an occupant. By no means has it been excessive and real prevalent. Maybe once or twice a month sort of thing."

As for why the numbers are so low, White couldn't provide a definitive answer.

"It's hard to say. We didn't know what we were going to get coming into it. The legal changes in terms of cannabis were unprecedented in this country, so we didn't know what to expect. I think the laws are in place and a lot of public education happened during that time. I think people are just abiding by the laws for the most part."

White says these numbers are a good indicator there shouldn't be a dramatic increase in cannabis-impaired driving charges in Medicine Hat's future.

"If we look at the first couple months of legalization as any indication, I can't see there being a dramatic increase in drug impairment. We certainly haven't seen it yet and I'm not sure it'll happen however, we'll continue to watch for it. Impairment is impairment, whether it's alcohol, drugs or fatigue, it all poses the same risks and we gotta treat it the same and keep it as a priority." 

Alberta's updated impaired driving laws for cannabis can be found here.

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