Marijuana Legalization – Consequences to Alcohol Consumption Laws

Dominating the headlines these days is the news that the legalization of Marijuana is coming in the next year or so to Canadians.  Bill C-45, or as its more commonly know as, the Cannabis Act, is the piece of legislation that has many people excited. What is clear from the Cannabis Act is that the government has set its priorities on keeping the Canadian public safe, by restricting access of weed to youth and making a dent in organized crime. The main points of this legislation are that:

  • There will be a federal legal age limit for purchasing pot at 18 years of age, though provinces can alter that as they see fit
  • Possession of 30 grams of cannabis will be legal.
  • Cannabis in an edible form will be legal but with certain restrictions.
  • Canadians will be permitted to grow four plants per residence.
  • Producers must be licensed with the federal government, although the retail model as to how weed is sold will be left up to the provinces.

While this Cannabis Act has been on the minds of many Canadians, another piece of legislation was also tabled on the same day. The second proposed legislation is known as Bill C-46: An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.  Many people whom I have talked to know all about the Cannabis Act, but had no idea about this second piece of legislation.  Tucked away in Bill C-46 are changes to our current impaired driving laws.

Currently, our law allows for police to demand a person provide a sample of their breath into a breathalyzer at the side of the road only if they have a suspicion that you are impaired. The proposed changes, contained under section 320.24 (1) – Mandatory Prohibition Order, would allow police officers to demand breath samples from any driver without first requiring a reasonable suspicion that they’re under the influence.  This means that if this legislation is passed, police can lawfully demand a person provide a sample of their breath without having a reasonable suspicion as long as they have lawfully stopped you.  Being pulled over for speeding? The police can make you take a breath test. Made an illegal right turn? The police can make you take a breath test.

Many legal practitioners believe that this proposed legislation will be challenged as soon as it is passed and becomes law. The proposed legislation clearly offends every Canadians Charter rights, specifically the right to be free from arbitrary detention as well as unlawful search and seizure. However, if you speak to Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s justice minister, she says that she is confident the laws will stand up in court.  Only time will tell but as it stands, this new proposed change to the impaired driving laws is very troubling.