The impending legalization of cannabis means not only the justice system has to be prepared, but the non-profit sector as well.
The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving is one of those organizations.
“Nova Scotia actually has one of the highest rates of cannabis impaired drivers,” said Joy Polley of the Pictou County chapter of MADD.
According to Polley, 43 per cent of fatal crashes involve cannabis. Although MADD’s message may have started with drunk driving, over the years they have moved with the times and are now targeting drugs, whether illicit or prescription. She added that even if you’re taking something like cold medicine you should check the side effects to ensure it will not make you drowsy if you will be driving.
Along with the organization’s preventative work, support for victims is also part of what MADD provides.
The organization has even changed its slogan in recent years which can be seen on more recent MADD television ads. The slogan that once was ‘Saving lives supporting victims’ is now ‘No alcohol, no drugs, no victims.’
“Our messaging all along is sober driving,” she said. “The idea is to make the decision beforehand.”
Although MADD has been taking a preventative approach to getting the information out there before cannabis legalization come through, Polley talks a bit about what they think might be the case once cannabis becomes legal.
“We expect to see a bit of an increase with the curiosity factor.” She added that MADD feels the legislation that has been imposed for the drugs is quite good, so it eases some concern about the incoming change.
Legislative suspensions are one thing that she added will help in terms of deterring impaired driving. A legislative suspension would see a driver stopped by police and found under the influence face a 24-hour suspension on their licence effective immediately, forcing them unable to drive until the drugs have worn off.
Another factor that will help ease the minds of those concerned with impaired driving is the detection equipment that will be available for police. Polley says the new equipment will act the same as a breathalyzer and take the same amount of time to test if someone is under the influence. Separated areas in the combined liquor and cannabis stores is also a positive factor. Employees working in these facilities will receive extensive training to be able to tell one if someone may have had too much and they should be cut off, similar to when an inebriated customer walks into a liquor store and cannot be served.
For those driving, Polley shared that a combination of between 2.5 and 5 nanograms of cannabis in your system and a blood alcohol content of .05 is grounds for an automatic suspension.
“They are very closely tied with our alcohol policies, which is what MADD wanted to see,” said Polley.