Cannabis-intoxication cases may bog down courts

Cannabis-intoxication cases may bog down courts

Cannabis-intoxication cases may bog down courts

Both technical and legal uncertainty about how using marijuana may cause driving impairment threaten to hamstring the court system as lawyers put the new laws on trial, says Ottawa criminal lawyer Céline Dostaler.

“With the legalization of marijuana, the issue of cannabis impairment is much more prominent — the government wants to make sure people aren’t using cannabis and then becoming a hazard on the roads,” she tells

But new laws taking effect Dec. 18, which increase the mandatory minimum fines for blood THC levels in drivers, impose a criminal record upon conviction, and "increase the presumptions used as shortcuts to convict individuals," will be litigated early and often, and have the potential to return the nation’s courts to unacceptable wait times for trial, warns Dostaler, the founder of Céline Dostaler Professional Corporation.

“There’s going to be more triable issues, and an increase in potential trial time,” she says, adding it will pose challenges to the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Jordan, in which the court ruled that 18 months was the maximum acceptable wait time from charge to trial in cases without a preliminary hearing and 30 months for other cases.

“The way impaired by drug charges are going to be dealt with, we could see a lot more trials go ahead,” Dostaler adds. “That means much more trial time, and the potential for our already overburdened courts to be even more taxed.”

Not only that, but it could also result in “many people who might be guilty of an offence being found not guilty based on the amount of time it takes the case to get to court,” she says.

The changes to impaired driving laws make it a criminal offence to drive with certain blood levels of THC, the intoxicating component of marijuana, regardless of whether that level is causing impairment.

“The government is really cracking down on this,” Dostaler says.

While the punishment for having a level of two to five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood is a maximum $1,000 fine, it still carries a criminal record, she says. Having five or more ng per ml will attract a minimum $1,000 fine for a first offence, and having a combination of 50 milligrams of alcohol and 2.5 nanograms of THC in your blood will incur the $1,000 minimum, which is equivalent to a first impaired driving conviction with a blood-alcohol level of 80 mg per 100 ml.

Read full article here - October 1st, 2018 (

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