Tis the season when the police step up their campaign against driving impaired. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), an average of four people are killed in Canada each day in crashes involving drugs or alcohol.
Statistics Canada reports the alcohol-impaired driving rate in 2015 was 65 per cent lower than the rate in 1986 and four per cent lower than the rate in 2014.
In contrast, the number of drug-impaired driving crashes has been rising since 2009. This particular statistic is used by both sides—those in favour of legalization of cannabis and those opposed.
Those opposed to the legalization of cannabis correctly argue that its consumption will increase as it becomes more accessible and, in turn, those driving under the influence of drugs will increase.
This fact is concerning when one realizes Albertans are already the third highest users of medical and nonmedical cannabis in the country pre-legalization.
The correlation between access and increased use was clearly demonstrated when Alberta privatized alcohol sales. With liquor stores every couple of blocks and extended operating hours, Albertan’s consumption skyrocketed. Today only the wine-loving province of Quebec beats Alberta in annual alcohol consumption.
Those who support legalization argue that cannabis, whether legal or illegal, is an increasingly popular vice in today’s society and the reality of its harm cannot be ignored. When the pro side argues that legalization will better protect children they are talking in the context of regulations and education.
They point to the example of two of our other vices, cigarettes and alcohol.
Strong regulations and decades of education and advertising has made both driving while impaired and smoking socially unacceptable. Both areas have seen significant reductions. With legalization, children and society can now learn in school and through public awareness campaigns about cannabis and its very real dangers.
There are no easy answers to monitoring or protecting self and society from vices. Prohibition of alcohol didn’t work, yet I don’t think there is anything more reprehensible that mothers passing on FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) to their innocent child by drinking during pregnancy.
We will never get rid of gangs and mafia selling vices, but legalization does cut into the illegal trade significantly over time and taxes collected are used to help mitigate some of the individual and societal damages they cause.
For those addicted to a vice that is a challenge where society must help the victims, but for the rest of us, it just comes down to personal responsibility.
Consuming and possessing cannabis is now like alcohol, perfectly legal, but to drive impaired on alcohol or drugs is a criminal offence and in the worst case scenario, vehicular homicide and ruined lives.
The best gift to you, your family, your neighbours and the stranger is to never get behind the wheel of your vehicle when drinking or using. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.