Cannabis legalization: What the laws mean for drivers
With the legalization of recreational cannabis, federal laws under the Criminal Code are in place to address drug-impaired driving. The Government of B.C. has established tough provincial sanctions to help keep drug-affected drivers off our roads.
If you’re convicted of drug-impaired driving, it will cost you.
Laws passed by federal government
The Government of Canada has passed legislation to legalize and regulate the sale and use of cannabis (Bill C-45) and to update motor vehicle-related sections of the Criminal Code of Canada, including sections related to impaired driving (Bill C-46).
The legislation includes:
three Criminal Code offences that set the legal blood drug concentration limits (BDC) for THC. The offences mean that if you have 2 nanograms (ng) or more of THC in your system while driving, you are breaking the law. The punishment increases the more THC you have in your system, and especially if combined with alcohol.
the ability for police to use saliva drug testing during roadside checks to determine if THC is present in your system. If so, police can then require a blood test at the police station to confirm the amount and potentially press charges.
Penalties for drug-affected driving
As with alcohol, if you’re suspected of drug-affected driving, police can suspend your driver’s licence and prohibit you from driving.
Penalties for cannabis-impaired driving depend on the amount of THC and/or alcohol in your system, and the number of times you’re charged. Penalties include fines, points on your licence, and even jail time for multiple offences.
For example, if you have 2ng - 5ng THC while driving, this offence carries a maximum $1000 fine, but the fine for having more than 5ng THC starts at $1000 and can escalate from there. Repeat offences can carry even more significant penalties, including imprisonment.
In B.C., a conviction for being affected by drugs while driving may also mean you are subject to ICBC’s Driver Risk Premium and Driver Penalty Point Premium, and Road Safety BC’s Driver Improvement Program.
Driving with cannabis
The B.C. government has introduced rules about the transportation and consumption of cannabis in vehicles. Find out more about these rules in their factsheet of frequently asked questions.
Zero-tolerance for L and N drivers
As with alcohol, Learner and Novice drivers are not allowed to have any amount of certain drugs including THC in their system while driving. Violating this restriction will result in a suspension of driving privileges. Learner and Novice drivers could also be subject to other penalties under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code.
Appealing a roadside prohibition
If you receive a roadside driving prohibition for being affected by drugs while driving, you can request RoadSafetyBC to review it to have the prohibition removed from your driving record. This now includes 24-hour driving prohibitions, which previously had been ineligible for review.
Requests for a review must be submitted within 7 days and a fee will apply.
Find out more about appealing a roadside prohibition.
Find out more on the B.C. government website:
Find out more on the Government of Canada website:
Changes to impaired driving laws (backgrounder)
Find out more about alcohol and drug-impaired driving – and why you should always plan a safe ride home:
For the most up-to-date ICBC driving guides, visit: