Comox Valley RCMP anticipates drug-impaired driving increase following marijuana legalization

The head of the Comox Valley RCMP’s municipal traffic section agrees with Victoria Police Chief Del Manak that the legalization of marijuana will mean more work for police officers.

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak presented his department’s draft 2018 budget to city council last month. He told council that next summer’s impending legalization of marijuana will increase the need for police training, as well as the need for education and enforcement strategies surrounding drug-impaired driving.

Corporal Brad Matchett said he expects a similar situation to arise for the Comox Valley RCMP detachment.

“Moving forward, once cannabis is legalized, I can see we’re going to have an issue with people consuming marijuana and getting behind the wheel,” said Matchett. “We already do.”

Matchett said the Comox Valley RCMP investigated 13 drivers for drug-impaired driving between Jan. 1 and Nov. 8, 2016, and 16 drivers so far in 2017.

He mentioned that states in the U.S. that legalized recreational marijuana — Colorado and Washington in particular — have seen increases in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents attributed to drug-impaired driving.

“As drugs become more readily available, it would only stand to reason that we see an increase in drug-related impaired driving investigations,” he said.

Of course, not everyone agrees.

The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) released a study in June this year that showed the number of car fatalities from 2009–2015 in Colorado and Washington were similar to states with comparable populations and driving patterns that haven’t legalized marijuana. Colorado and Washington both legalized cannabis in 2012.

“Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization. Future studies over a longer time remain warranted,” reads the study’s conclusion.

The Canadian federal government introduced the Cannabis Act in April. The legislation will legalize non-medicinal cannabis use in Canada and is planned to come into effect on July 1, 2018.

Despite being a federal law, the federal government has left the usage regulations and distribution methods of marijuana up to the provinces to handle individually.

-With files from Victoria News/Lauren Boothby

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