EMERY SAYS - 'PEOPLE DON'T SPEED ON POT'
Critics Quick To Point Out Flaw In Logic Of Marijuana Advocate
A stoned driver is a safer driver, B.C.'s leading marijuana advocate says.
"Cannabis will likely improve your driving," Marc Emery, president of the B.C. Marijuana Party, said yesterday. "Marijuana doesn't impair you in driving. People don't speed on pot. People go slower, they're more cautious. They're not in a rush to get to where they're going."
On Monday, the federal government reintroduced legislation to decriminalize pot possession for personal use, and retabled a bill to give police the power to make drivers submit to drug testing. Emery argued that his experience in the marijuana culture shows driving while high is safe.
"I've smoked every day of my life and I've driven. I've never had an accident in 26 years of driving," he said. "I've been around pot people all my life and I don't know anybody who's had an accident while they've been stoned."
His logic doesn't fly with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"The guy doesn't know what he's talking about," said MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie. "[He's] using that old '70s thing: 'Oh, man, you know, I'm so relaxed.' But you know, if you're so relaxed, and a life-and-death situation appears in front of you, you can't react to that. Who sanctioned mellow drivers as the best drivers? We want people alert, in full use of their faculties."
Vancouver RCMP forensic toxicologist Rick Ulrich said scientific studies have shown marijuana, which has an active ingredient called THC, is "the No. 2 drug behind alcohol in fatal accidents."
His own experience backs that up, Ulrich said.
"I've been involved in testing blood for THC for at least 18 years and, yes, I've found it in numerous cases being present in the blood in both fatal and impaired-driving cases.
"It's a different type of impairment than alcohol, but just as deadly."
Federal Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan yesterday defended the government's move toward decriminalization.
But she added: "The message, whether it's from me, whether it's from the minister of justice, the minister of health, is that marijuana continues to be illegal in this country, and you're pretty stupid, in most cases, if you smoke it."
On Aug. 31, a teen driver was convicted of dangerous driving in a Langley crash that killed two 16-year-olds, but he was found not guilty of being impaired by marijuana. Judge W.G. MacDonald noted that "the current state of the law makes it very difficult to prosecute anyone for the offence of impairment by marijuana."
Under the new legislation, police with reasonable grounds to suspect a driver has been smoking pot would be able to demand that the motorist provide a blood, urine or saliva test, and refusal could result in a criminal charge. Test results, along with results of roadside sobriety tests and officer observations of impairment indicators, such as red eyes and the reek of marijuana, would become evidence for prosecution, Ulrich said.
The new legislation would impose a $150 pot-possession fine for adults and $100 for minors holding 15 grams or less -- enough to roll about 30 joints.
Anybody caught with more than 15 grams would still face jail time -- with a possible six months in prison -- and a maximum fine of $1,000.