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Car accidents: How will marijuana impairment be determined?

With the imminent legalization of marijuana, some drivers in Ontario will likely have questions about driving under the influence of cannabis. A marijuana producer in another province warns that cannabis has the potential to affect a driver's judgment and response time. He says operating motorized vehicles under the influence of marijuana can result in life-threatening car accidents.

Those who smoke marijuana will likely want to know whether there will be a limit to the number of joints they may smoke, similar to the limitations on alcoholic beverages. Currently, there is no answer to that question because, although the level of tetrahydrocannabino (THC) in the blood can be tested, no standards have been determined to define a scientifically valid and universally accepted level that indicates cannabis impairment. Thus, unlike the .08 per cent blood alcohol level that shows alcohol impairment, no such standard has been established for marijuana.

Furthermore, THC remains in the blood for an extended period, and if THC is detected in the blood of someone who caused a crash, it could be from cannabis use as long as a month prior to the accident. In the meantime, all the RCMP can do is provide training to strengthen the ability of officers to detect drug impairment. Until laws are established to control marijuana use by drivers, other road users may have to suffer the consequences.

Victims of car accidents in Ontario may seek financial relief through the civil justice system. If a crash involved marijuana impairment, it might be challenging to prove impairment. However, with the support and guidance of an experienced personal injury lawyer, proof of negligence might be established. Upon successful presentation of a claim, the court can enter a monetary judgment to cover the economic and noneconomic damages sustained by the plaintiff.

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