Just one hour after Canada's legalization of recreational cannabis, police in Winnipeg issued the nation's first known citation for toking and driving, the police department confirmed Wednesday.
At around 1 a.m. on Oct. 17, a police officer pulled over a vehicle and determined the occupants to have been consuming the newly legalized substance while driving on a major roadway. Similar to alcohol, recently legalized cannabis is not permitted to be consumed while driving.
Bottom line is that you cannot consume cannabis in your vehicle.— Winnipeg Police (@wpgpolice) October 17, 2018
Police were not able to determine if the cannabis was legally purchased, nor did they deem it worth investigating. Although the plant's flower and edibles created through processing are now legal to consume, it must be purchased through a licensed dispensary. Additionally, only 120 companies nationwide are licensed to cultivate and process the plants that are sold to regulated dispensaries before reaching the hands of consumers. Police believe that a strong probability exists that the cannabis found during this stop was illegally obtained given the one-hour discrepancy between legalization and discovery.
"If somebody has an edible in a car and we can prove it, that's also an offense," said Gord Spado, Winnipeg Police Service traffic division Inspector. "Sometimes we can, sometimes we can't. And when edibles are legally produced commercially, then it might be a little bit easier because there'll be packaging and things that might be visible."
It is important to note that cannabis may not be stored at an accessible place in a vehicle while the car is in motion on a public road. Later on Wednesday, Ontario Provincial Police cited another driver for that very offense.
According to CBC, the following fines exist for individuals in Canada for vehicular-related cannabis offenses:
- $672: Consuming cannabis in or on a vehicle on a highway
- $672: Consuming cannabis in or on off-road vehicle
- $237: Driver carrying cannabis in or on a vehicle (ie: not in the trunk; same fine for off-road vehicles)
In Canada, driving with more than 5 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream is considered to be similar to an alcohol-related DUI charge. The first offense comes with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, and a second offense is a minimum of 30 days imprisonment. Police can order an oral sample or field sobriety test should they be suspicious of a driver.