Cannabis Research Money Too Little Too Late

The Federal Government has announced a commitment to nearly $1 Million in funding for research into cannabis impairment. And while it is nice to see the government finally direct money toward studying this important issue, it is also a little bit frustrating. In reality, the decision to do this, at this stage of the game is far too little, too late.

The money, which is not one million dollars, but around $920,000 spread out over three years, is designed to be spent on assessing two factors only:

  • Whether there is any connection between a THC concentration in the blood and impaired driving ability;
  • Whether there are differences in cannabis impairment based on age and gender of drivers.

The study will look at drivers in the age ranges of 19-45, which eliminates a significant portion of the population, and a significant portion of the driving population. This is despite the fact that some research shows that the highest percentage of fatally-injured drivers testing positive for drugs is teenagers, aged 17 and 18. If that’s the case, then it seems foolish to leave out those who are statistically more likely to die behind the wheel, with a drug in their body.

Bill C-46, which overhauls Canada’s impaired driving legislation, was passed and given royal assent at the end of June. This bill creates significant penalties for marijuana in the body, and in particular introduces new criminal offences for driving with certain concentrations of THC in the blood stream. However, the science relied on by the government thus far already acknowledges that the THC level cannot be directly correlated with impairment.

It’s unclear what further research on the issue will establish. And with only around $300,000 per year over three years, it is unclear just how much research will actually be accomplished.

The consequences under Bill C-46 are severe. A criminal record is a mandatory consequence of a conviction for the lowest offence, having only two to five nanograms of THC in the blood. This would be reflected on a person’s criminal record as a drug-related conviction, with potential consequences for cross-border travel and employment.

The pittance of funds is not as concerning as the fact that this research will not be completed until 2020, when marijuana is set to become legal in October, 2018. There will be two years of potentially unscientific, arbitrary law under which Canadians will be punished, given criminal records, and subjected a host of undesirable consequences all because the government did not commit the research funds until now.

While the decision to put funding into marijuana impaired driving research is commendable, it is far from enough money and far too late to prevent the damage that a law that is not science-based will cause to Canadians.

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