An area of concern for many members of society when it comes to cannabis reform, and understandably so, relates to cannabis and driving. After all, no reasonable person wants to have impaired people operating motor vehicles on public roadways. However, reasonable people also want to let science lead the way when it comes to determining impairment and crafting public policies that help mitigate impaired drivers on public roadways, and unfortunately, hard science is often not part of the public policy process.
Often replacing hard science and a rational approach for mitigating cannabis impairment on public roadways is outright political scare tactics, which is truly unfortunate. ‘There will be terror and bloodshed on the roadways’ is a common theme of cannabis opponents when any type of cannabis reform is being considered. The latest focus of such anti-cannabis PR efforts is cannabis clubs.
New Report Targets Cannabis Clubs
Days ago the Traffic Injury Research Foundation released a report titled, “Recreational Cannabis Consumption Spaces in Canada.” The report was published with support from the Canada Safety Council and DRIVE SOBER®. While some of the points made in the report’s press release are valid, many of them involved typical reefer madness talking points and communication strategies.
The report relied heavily on convoluting the nuanced differences between confirmed cannabis impairment at the time of an incident versus someone merely having cannabis in their system but no proven impairment, or someone having several substances in their system, or someone having so little cannabis in their system that impairment was likely nonexistent. For example, the report states, “more than 7% of drivers had ≥ 2 ng/mL, and 3.5% had ≥ 5 ng/mL.” To put those ng/mL limits into perspective, the Olympics’ cannabis testing threshold is 150 ng/mL.
“The report underscores that any proposal to move forward with the implementation of cannabis consumption spaces in the absence of effective and well-developed prevention strategies to protect the public from recognized harm is premature.” the report stated, which if you ask me, is merely a delay tactic to try to stop the spread of cannabis clubs. If so, there’s a really big flaw with that tactic – it ignores the fact that cannabis clubs are far from a new thing.
Cannabis Clubs In Canada
Regulated cannabis clubs may be a relatively new thing from a public policy standpoint, however, in the real world they have existed for decades, including in Canada. Underground cannabis clubs have existed for years, particularly in British Columbia, and the last time that I checked, the sky was still intact over B.C. Despite unregulated cannabis clubs being somewhat common in parts of B.C., it’s worth noting that the province does not lead Canada in drug-related DUIs.
According to government data from Canada, “Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest rate of drug-impaired driving (52 incidents per 100,000 population), followed by Prince Edward Island,” with New Brunswick (36) coming in next. By contrast, British Columbia had 32 incidents per 100,000 population. If increasing the number of cannabis clubs in a jurisdiction automatically made the roadways unsafe, then it would be reflected in the data. Yet, that is obviously not the case.
A Rational Approach
One thing that the report noted that was absolutely correct is that there is a need for ongoing public education regarding cannabis use and operating a motor vehicle while impaired. No responsible cannabis consumer advocates for impaired driving, and the same is true of responsible members of Canada’s emerging cannabis industry. Clearly, there is a common goal between responsible cannabis advocates and opponents alike in that we all want public roadways to be safe.
The friction between the two groups begins when prevention strategies and detection are discussed. Cannabis advocates want to rely on facts to educate the public, and not fear-mongering. Cannabis advocates want science to determine impairment and not arbitrary nanogram thresholds that do not take into account a person’s tolerance level, individual biology, and other situational factors.
Unfortunately, the topic of cannabis and driving is such a hot-button issue with cannabis opponents that it makes it very difficult to have a rational conversation about what an effective prevention strategy looks like. People have consumed cannabis in social settings for many years, albeit in a non-regulated fashion, and a vast majority of people take precautionary measures such as walking, taking public transportation, or arranging private transportation.
Cannabis clubs are merely the latest boogeyman punching bag for cannabis opponents. Concerns about impaired driving are valid, however, they should not be used to derail further implementation of cannabis clubs in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter.