Cannabis and Roadside Testing

Here's what happens if you are stopped by the police and suspected of impaired driving.

Step 1When you are pulled over

What happens:

A police car is behind you and you are being pulled over - your heart is racing. You smoked cannabis at your friend's house an hour ago and are on your way home. The police officer may not suspect you have smoked cannabis, this could just be a routine check. Do you know what happens next?

Good to Know:

You don't need to be doing anything wrong for the police to pull you over. Police have long had the power to stop drivers to check to see if they have a valid licence, if they are sober, and if their vehicle is roadworthy.

You should note that impaired driving applies to all motor vehicles, including: cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, and aircrafts.

Step 2Roadside testing performed

What happens:

If you are, or were within the past three hours, operating a motor vehicle, and a police officer has reason to suspect that you have alcohol and/or drugs in your body, they may make a demand on you to:

  1. Provide a sample of your breath, at roadside, on an Approved Screening Device (ASD)
  2. Provide an oral fluid sample, at roadside, on Approved Drug Screening Equipment (ADSE)
  3. Participate in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST)

Good to Know:

  1. As of December 2018, police no longer need reasonable suspicion to request a breath test for alcohol.
  2. Police do require reasonable suspicion to request an oral fluid sample to test for drug presence.
  3. It is a criminal offence to refuse to provide a breath or oral fluid sample.
  4. You can not call a lawyer before performing roadside tests.
  5. Police can arrest you and take you in for further testing if they have reasonable suspicion that you are impaired; even though you have passed the breath or oral fluid test
  6. Police do not require an oral fluid test or breath test. They can use the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (STET) to detect impairment.

Step 3Taken to police station

What happens:

  1. If your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) level is above 0.08, you will be arrested and taken to the police station
  2. If your THC level is over 25 ng/mL in your oral fluid you will be taken to the police station
  3. If you fail the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) you will be taken to the police station

Good to Know:

An individual who submits a breath sample in the "Warn" range (0.05 to 0.08) can be subject to administrative penalties such as a roadside suspension or an immediate roadside prohibition.

Step 4Testing after the arrest

What happens:

Under new legislation, after the suspected drug-impaired driver is arrested, police can proceed in one, or both, of the following ways:

  1. A police officer can demand that the impaired driver provide a blood sample.
  2. A police officer can demand that the driver undergoes a 12-step Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluation at a police detachment.

Good to Know:

  1. You have the right to call a lawyer before further testing at the police station.
  2. Denying a blood sample is a criminal offence.
  3. Blood concentration levels of alcohol or drugs are used to define charges and penalties not the samples you have provided at the roadside.

Step 5Penalties

Federal penalties apply:

If after analysis, the blood sample shows a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of over the legal limit, the driver will be charged with the associated offence. Federal penalties are tough - the 1st offence for being over 5 ng/mL of THC in your blood is a mandatory $1000 fine, the 2nd offence is a mandatory 30 days in jail and the 3rd offence is a mandatory 120 days in jail. In addition, provincial penalties apply.

Provincial penalties apply in combination with Federal penalties:

Provincial penalties vary by province. Your license can be immediately suspended, your vehicle can be impounded, you can receive a financial penalty and be required to take educational courses at your own expense in order to get your driver's license back. These penalties are even worse for novice drivers.

For more information, visit DontBeSorry.ca.