Alberta introducing rules to align with federal cannabis legalization plan
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, November 14, 2017 6:18PM EST
EDMONTON -- Alberta is putting the legislative pieces in place for legalized marijuana, starting with changes to align its rules with pending Criminal Code amendments.
"Impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death and injury in Canada," Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Tuesday after introducing Bill 29 in the legislature.
"If this bill passes, it will support our government's goal of zero impairment (and) related collisions and fatalities on Alberta roads."
Marijuana is to be legal across Canada as of July 1, and the federal government is revising and toughening criminal charges for impaired driving to include cannabis and mixing cannabis with alcohol while behind the wheel.
Normally, an Alberta driver caught with a blood alcohol level over .08 has also had their driver's licence suspended until the case was resolved in court, but a recent Alberta Court of Appeal ruling said that penalty was unfair and unconstitutional.
Under the bill, it will now be a fixed-term suspension of 90 days, but it could be extended to a year if the driver doesn't agree to participate in an ignition interlock program, at a cost of $1,400.
There is currently zero tolerance for any alcohol in the system of a new driver in Alberta, and that ban will be extended to marijuana.
Brenda Johnson, with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that ban is key.
"That's a really important feature to protect our youth," she said.
But while lauding changes in the bill, Johnson said history suggests it will be an uphill battle come July 1.
"We've dealt with alcohol (impairment) for over 30 years now in this country and our roads still aren't safer," she said.
The new Criminal Code rules will see a fine for a driver with less than five nanograms of THC, the cannabis compound that gives the user a "high" in their bloodstream. Stiffer fines and eventually mandatory jail time could be imposed for those caught with five nanograms or more.
Ottawa is bringing in a roadside saliva tests to check for drug impairment, and the rules are expected to be in place when marijuana is legalized.
The federal government is delivering $81 million to the provinces and territories over the next five years to update police on checking and testing for drug-impaired driving.
The changes are just one part of the new legal marijuana regime.
The federal government will handle overall health rules but the provinces will decide how to distribute and sell cannabis.
On Thursday the province is rolling out legislation to back up its plan on how it will sell cannabis while balancing public safety.
Alberta has already proposed setting 18 as the minimum age to use cannabis and is eyeing selling it through a series of private stores over the counter but through the government online.