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Driving high to be regulated as a DUI

Sunny Bains
News Reporter

Ontario plans to introduce harsher new penalties ahead of cannabis legalization in July next year to discourage stoned drivers from taking the wheel.

Despite government’s tough talk, the Department of Public Safety at Humber is still awaiting guidelines from college authorities.

“We are waiting for some directions from the ministry, but ultimately Humber College will have to make some decisions in regard to pot smoking,” said Rob Kilfoyle, director of  public safety and emergency management.

“Right now, the regulations around smoking marijuana on campus is that it’s a prohibited substance, it’s not legal to smoke, so we dissuade people from smoking it,” he said.

Eight U.S. states, including California, Washington and Colorado, also implemented stiffer laws after legalizing pot. Ontario government’s press release said it will have zero tolerance for commercial, youth and novice drivers who show detectable presence of drugs or alcohol in their system.

Carolyn Swinson, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada board member who lost her father and young son to drunk drivers, welcomed the tougher new laws as a good start and said it had always been MADD’s demand.

“They are a good start, but these are only the provincial regulations that were announced last week,” Swinson said. “That’s not enough. They need federal government to bring in the other piece of the puzzle. The system here is that federal government actually makes the laws, and the provinces then decide how they are going to enforce them,” she said.

Drivers driving high on pot will be treated the same way the police treats people caught driving under the influence of alcohol because any kind of intoxication is dangerous, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in his statement.

Jason Fred, a business management student at Humber College who smokes marijuana every day, said he would be uncomfortable with people driving high on weed all the time because it affects their cognitive functions. Fred is hopeful that the new stiffer laws will help but doesn’t shy away from suggesting his very own three-hour rule.

“We need to have laws to prevent that from happening, like you shouldn’t smoke three hours before operating any heavy vehicle or machinery,” he said. “After three hours you are completely sober and good to go. My advice to everyone who smokes is to follow the three hour rule.”

Pierre Williams, former Humber student and now studying at York University, doesn’t smoke but wants to bring pot out of the black market and have people pay for it. He said legalizing pot will bring more money into the government’s coffers which can be used for public welfare, schooling, health care, etc.

According to the issued press release, new young drivers holding G1, G2, M1 or M2 licences, caught with drugs or alcohol in their system, would face licence suspensions from three to 30 days and fines from $250 to $450.

Commercial drivers caught with drugs or alcohol in their system would face a three-day licence suspension and fines from $250 to $450. There’s no suspension or fine for commercial drivers at the present.

Drivers who fail a roadside screening test would be fined anywhere from $250 to $450 and those who refuse to provide a sample will face a $550 fine.

The stiffer new penalties will be in addition to current federal criminal charges, suspensions and perhaps jail time for impaired driving. For cannabis, the federal government will soon approve an oral fluid screening device and set the thresholds for detectable presence of marijuana.

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