One of the challenges provinces face with the legalization of marijuana, set for July 2018, is finding a way to prove as much in court, plus the extra workload that lawmakers will face. File photo

Alberta courts could face increased workload with marijuana legislation

Among the biggest potential challenges are proving someone is actually impaired by marijuana

Legalizing marijuana in Canada is coming down the pipeline, which poses some serious challenges for lawmakers.

First among those challenges is ensuring there’s a proper method to prove someone was actually impaired from marijuana use. In an effort to understand those challenges, Ponoka News reached out to Rod Clark, a counsellor with SIRRS LLP Law Group in Ponoka.

Clark was the chief Crown prosecutor in Wetaskiwin before joining SIRRS early last year.

He says there’s two areas of law that are affected by the legalization of marijuana, the first is on the criminalization of marijuana and the second is on the civil side.

For the former he sees an issue with the province having the proper equipment and enough trained staff to conduct all the tests needed to confirm if someone was indeed impaired from marijuana.

Plus, the court time if called as a witness.

“It’s all very well and fine to say the technology exists or the law’s been passed so now the police can take bodily samples to look for evidence of THC in somebody,” said Clark. “But is there somebody there who’s going to have the time to test it, to write the reports and to testify?”

Add to that, Clark says police do not have enough people trained who can then give reliable evidence about whether somebody appears to be impaired by any kind of drug.

“As a defence lawyer, the first thing you’re going to be looking at, if somebody is charged with impaired operation by reason of marijuana use, is well, what kind of training does this police officer have when it comes to drug recognition?” said Clark.

“There’s very few people designated and there’s been issues in the past of the training of some of the officers,” he added.

An open letter on Nov. 14 from the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) confirms some of those issues pointing out that roadside testing is difficult to prove.

“The science related to impairment due to cannabis use is unresolved, and the Federal Government has yet to approve instruments that would objectively measure roadside impairment,” states the letter.

To say someone is impaired, whether that’s from alcohol or drugs, says Clark, requires evidence of impairment. He points out that the current law requires a designated drug recognition expert used by police, which there are not many of.

“Overall, the biggest problem is, the law may be changed but the resourcing has not been,” said Clark.

If additional charges are brought before the courts because of this new legislation, that will only add to an already overtaxed court system.

The other area that’s affected by the legalization of marijuana is in civil liability. Clark points out that if someone was to get behind the wheel of a car and cause an accident while being impaired by marijuana use or any other drug, they could be sued for being negligent.

“If you cause an accident while you’re high you will be sued and your insurance company will not cover you,” said Clark, pointing out this currently applies if someone is impaired from alcohol use.

“There’s no presumption of innocence in civil liability,” said Clark, pointing out that at this point someone who faces this reality would then have to sue the insurance company.

For Clark, regardless of if it’s drugs or alcohol, “Nobody should get high and drive.”

“It may be a legal drug next year but nonetheless it’s something that does impair and people should not use it and then drive,” he offered.

Clark also pointed out that if a person is caught smoking drugs while driving, they would be guilty of distracted driving or other traffic safety act offences.

Just Posted

NDP Leader Rachel Notley stops in Red Deer on campaign trail

Notley promises hospital expansion, cath lab, pipelines and energy industry expansion

Town of Sylvan Lake looking for input on dog lake access

The Town held an open house about lake access for dogs on March 14

New high school a priority for Sylvan Lake, says Chinook’s Edge

Chinook’s Edge has prioritized a new high school in its 2020-2023 capital budget

West Central Peewee Tigers crowned SCAHL league champions

The Tigers are set to continue their dominating season at Peewee AA Provincials March 28

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

Pot industry welcomes decreased edibles tax, but unhappy medical tax remains

Taxes can increase the cost of medical cannabis by as much as 25 per ceny

‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

Jaskirat Singh Sidhu pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court

MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

Multiple MPs have resigned from Trudeau’s Liberal cabinet

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Carbon tax, oil and gas investment dominate Day 2 of Alberta campaign

NDP pledges more oil and gas processing, UCP slams provincial and federal governments on carbon tax

Another gun seized by police in Wetaskiwin

Maskwacis RCMP arrest two youths, seize firearm in Wetaskiwin

Sundre RCMP looking for 4 missing bison

A Sundre bison rancher is missing four bison from January and RCMP ask for help from the public

Most Read