What About Zero Drugs?

New Driver SignsOne of the conditions attached to the driver's license of any new driver in British Columbia's Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) is that the driver must have zero blood alcohol when they are operating a motor vehicle. Of course, the idea behind this is that the driver has enough to worry about while driving the vehicle without adding alcohol to the mix. So, what about drug use?

This question came to my mind one afternoon while I was observing a lineup of vehicles stopped for the flag person at a construction zone. I found a lone male GLP "N" driver who wasn't wearing his seatbelt and pulled him out of the line when it moved on. As soon as I walked up to the driver's door I could smell the marihuana smoke inside, and since the windows were down and he was alone, I knew who had been smoking.

His green bordered license with the zero alcohol condition printed on the back had me thinking about other reality changing drugs. Shouldn't a new driver have a zero tolerance condition for those as well? He spoke to me candidly about smoking a joint while waiting for the construction and I made careful notes and a no charge drug seizure.

Before the end of my shift I contacted the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. No, we're not interested was the response. The Superintendent would only take action if the driver was issued a 24 hour suspension or was charged criminally for impaired driving by a drug other than alcohol.

The situation is the same today. A new driver cannot drink and drive, but it's OK to toke up and drive as long as you don't do enough to be suspended or charged. I repeat, what about zero drugs?

(Marihuana is spelled this way in Canadian law instead of marijuana, so I've chosen to use that spelling here.)

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Submitted by E-mail

Our son was stopped in a road block recently (before Christmas) and marijuana was discovered in his car.  Unfortunately for him he did not have you as an arresting officer so he was slammed with a ticket and a 24 hour suspension which will now lead to the loss of his licence.  All of that will create hardship in the family, since we live a long way from town, and will cost him at least $400.00 as well as possibly his job which he won't be able to get to.  Having said that though I, like you, am wondering how it is decided how much is too much and how anyone could possibly know whether or not they will be charged.  How did the officers decide that the car needed to be towed. You said "it's OK to toke up and drive as long as you don't do enough to be suspended or charged."  How much is too much?  Our son had certainly not done much and he has had no other driving offences so it doesn't seem too fair that he gets the book thrown at him while other people get off with a warning.  Who makes that decision?  Does it depend solely on the mood of the arresting officer?

In conclusion, I want to say that while I certainly don't condone the use of drugs while driving I feel that in some situations a stern talkilng to and a warning would be a much better approach.  Then at least the individual might feel like the police are on his or her side and not out to get them.  Sometimes giving an idividual the benefit of the doubt allows them to rise up to new and greater things.


May I ask what the ticket was for? I'm guessing at this point, but perhaps that is why he was pulled over to start with and everything went downhill from there.

The investigating officer must be able to justify the suspension and the reasons are documented as part of the paperwork that is submitted to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. You may wish to contact them and ask for a copy of the officer's reasons to better understand the incident.

If I found an impaired driver, regardless of whether it was by alcohol or another drug, I never cut them any slack. After 25 years of investigating collisions caused by them I really had no sympathy left anymore. In the case I wrote about here I was unable to find the grounds to do more than I did. If I had been able to, I certainly would have.

When I wrote "it's OK to toke up and drive as long as you don't do enough to be suspended or charged" it was a bit of a bitter comment on the state of affairs. In my view, this driver should have been in trouble for what he chose to do. If a new driver has to obey zero tolerance for alcohol use, they certainly should be held to the same standard for drug use that would cause impairment.

I do agree that sometimes a break is better than police action, but that is up to the officer involved and we all have personal standards for what we do within the law. You may wish to make an appointment with the officer and sit down to discuss the incident.


As to why he was pulled over.....apparently they were stopping every car to check for drinking and then they smelled the pot.  He said that at first the male officer gave him a ticket that was fairly minor and then the female officer decided he needed something more severe and gave him the ticket that mentioned the drgs and the 24 hour suspension.  He says that there was no controversy at all and that the officer was friendly.
I will try to contact the Office of the Superintendent to see what they have to say.  Also, while I was reading the comment on the Drive Smart web site last night I came across some tests that police often do to see if a person is drunk or stoned so I asked him if they had asked him to do any of those things like balance test, or walk a line or any coordination tests and he said they had done nothing like that. 
Although we will not be taking this to court or disputing the taking of the licence (that all costs too much and he did have marihauna)  it is  a concern, however, that there are no guidelines to determine what constitutes an impairment.  This almost seems to invite power trips on the part of some police and create bad feelings from the unfrotunate public who happen to hit an officer at a bad time.

Reviewing the 24 Hour Suspension

The difficulty with drugs other than alcohol is that there is no simple test in place to show that one is not under the influence. If you have been suspended for drinking, you have the opportunity to demand a breath test. If the results of the test are under 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood, the suspension is terminated. With marihuana, I suppose one could go to a medical lab for a blood test, but THC is persistent in the body for long periods and it might be difficult to show a zero blood level. Zero would likely be required as there is no set level for THC in the blood as there is with alcohol.

It disturbs me that the suspension was issued without physical testing. The law says:

215(2) A peace officer may, at any time or place on a highway or industrial road if the peace officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a driver's ability to drive a motor vehicle is affected by alcohol,

(a) request the driver to drive the motor vehicle, under the direction of the peace officer, to the nearest place off the travelled portion of the highway or industrial road,

(b) serve the driver with a notice of driving prohibition, and

(c) if the driver is in possession of a driver's licence, request the driver to surrender that licence.

Reasonable and probable grounds amounts to presenting the circumstances to the average person and they would conclude that the driver was impaired by a drug. I would be examining the officers justification in the notes and if there aren't grounds, having it reviewed on that basis.

I sympathize with your position as a parent. Son has made two bad choices, using illegal drugs and then driving, yet you do want to protect them. If the police are not straight forward in their dealings it becomes that much more difficult.

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