Driving in Canada
Canadian Federal Legislature*
Legal Age: 18+ (minimum), or as specified per Province
Maximum Possession: Up to 30 grams, or equivalent, or as specified per Province
Retail: As specified per Province; online sales available in each Province
Consumption: Private dwelling and property, or as specified per Province. Prohibited in vehicles.
Cultivation: Up to 4 plants per household, or as specified per Province
Adult-use recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada on October 17, 2018.
The information on this website reflects the compiled legal frameworks of the Federal, Provincial Gov and Municipal Governments of Canada.
Click here to view Bill C-45 CANNABIS ACT. Source: Government of Canada
Part 2: Alcohol-impaired driving
Part 2 of the new impaired driving legislation significantly reforms the entire Criminal Code regime dealing with transportation offences, including alcohol-impaired driving. It will come into force on December 18, 2018.
Combined with the new drug-impaired driving offences in Part 1 of the legislation, this will create a modernized, simplified, coherent legislative framework addressing all transportation offences including impaired driving in Canada.
Some key elements include:
simplifying and modernizing the transportation provisions, including the impaired driving provisions, in the Criminal Code to create a more coherent and efficient legislative framework
authorizing mandatory alcohol screening to make it easier to detect whether a driver is impaired
eliminating some defences that encourage risk-taking behaviour
making it easier to prove blood alcohol concentration for some impaired driving offences
clarifying what information the Crown is required to disclose to prove blood alcohol concentration
Under the current law, police officers must have reasonable suspicion that a driver has alcohol in their body before doing any roadside testing. When Part 2 of the legislation comes into force, police officers who have an approved screening device on hand will be able to test a breath sample of any driver they lawfully stop, even without reasonable suspicion that the driver has alcohol in their body. This would be done after the person has been lawfully stopped pursuant to existing authority (common law or provincial highway traffic act). A driver who refused to provide a breath sample could be subject to a criminal offence.
Research suggests that up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit are not detected at roadside check stops. Mandatory alcohol screening will assist in deterring individuals impaired by alcohol from driving, as well as better detect those who do. It is currently authorized in over 40 countries worldwide, including Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands and Sweden. Authorities in Ireland credit mandatory screening reducing the number of deaths on Irish roads by approximately 40 per cent in the first four years after it was enacted.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada tabled a Charter Statement to help inform public debate on the constitutionality of mandatory alcohol screening.
Eliminating and restricting defences
Under the current law, drivers can argue that alcohol that they drank just before driving was not fully absorbed and so they were not over the limit when driving. This is known as the “bolus drinking defence”. The new law removes this defence by making it illegal to be at or over the alcohol limit within two hours of driving.
Further, under the current law, a driver may claim they consumed alcohol after driving but before testing. They can claim that this alcohol is what put them over the limit at the time of testing and that they were not over the limit while they were driving. The new law only allows this defence in a situation where a driver drank after driving and had no reason to expect a demand by the police for breath testing.
The new law clarifies what evidence the prosecution has to provide the defence about breath testing conducted at the police station. The prosecution will only be required to disclose information that is scientifically relevant, such as the result of calibration checks and any error messages produced by the approved instrument. Defence can apply for further disclosure relating to breath testing, but the court would first need to be satisfied that the requested material is relevant.
Government of Canada
Driving while impaired, whether by alcohol, or cannabis, or other drugs, is a serious crime and puts the safety of everyone at risk. Click here to read the Canadian Department of Justice Impaired Driving Laws >>