A great deal of publicity, debate and no shortage of controversy followed the introduction of legalized cannabis in October 2018. Canadian legislators were swift to update their impaired driving regulations and in December 2018, created an entirely new category of cannabis impairment laws.
Do these Laws Affect my Life Insurance?
These changes are still new, and we are only just beginning to understand the effects of cannabis legislature on life insurance. What we do know is that life insurance underwriting has long considered impaired driving to be a high and adverse risk factor. A DUI conviction could most definitely result in a substantial increase in life insurance premiums or the decision to decline coverage altogether.
What is Cannabis?
Commonly referred to as pot, weed or marijuana, cannabis can be used for medicinal or recreational purposes. It comes in many forms including dried flowers and leaves, oil extracts and edibles such as candies or baked goods. Cannabis contains more than a hundred chemicals (cannabinoids) and the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid that causes the “high” or the intoxicating effect associated with its use.
How cannabis affects you depends on a few things such as your age, amount and frequency of use, how it is consumed, and whether it’s combined with alcohol or other drugs. Many people believe that driving under the influence of cannabis is harmless and that high drivers proceed slower and tend to be more cautious behind the wheel. That belief is false. In fact, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada. Studies have shown that cannabis affects motor skills and visual functions drastically and mixing cannabis with alcohol or other drugs greatly compounds those risks.
New Driving Impairment Laws
Significant changes to impaired driving laws followed the legalization of cannabis. The Criminal Code of Canada now considers it an offence to:
- Drive with 2 – 5 ng of THC per 1 ml of blood
- Drive with 5 ng or more of THC per 1 ml of blood – stiffer penalties would apply here
- Drive with a combination of 50 milligrams (mg) or more of alcohol per 100 ml of blood and 2.5 ng or more of THC per 1 ml of blood
Additionally, police can now request an alcohol or drug test anytime they pull a driver over. Refusal to provide a sample is now a criminal offence with a $2,000 penalty for a first offender and harsher penalties, including mandatory imprisonment, for repeat offenders.
So how long should you wait before driving? Well, it depends. Each person is different, and several factors determine how long it takes an individual to sober up, including the amount of cannabis consumed as well as its potency. Thus far, the Canadian Government has not offered any guidelines on specific cannabis doses and their effects, making it difficult to quantify how much cannabis a person can consume before they drive. The safest option is to simply abstain from driving for the night. Instead, plan in advance by scheduling a cab or Uber, use public transportation or assign a designated driver.
If you are interested in another article on this topic, click here:
Legal Cannabis: What it Means for Your Insurability
 (Government of Canada, 2019)