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Driving Over the “Per se” Limit for THC

Road sign with cannabis leaf crossed off

“Per Se” is a new piece of legislation for Canadians to consider as it allows police to prosecute for the presence of THC without having to prove you are impaired.

With the October deadline approaching for the sale of recreational cannabis (in Canada) via retail outlets and online stores, medical cannabis patients have a few thoughts to ponder. The fear of increased automobile accidents as a result of cannabis impairment is pushing the Canadian Government to explore innovative models to detect and deter the use of cannabis while operating a vehicle.

Image Credit: Sangoiri

A particularly important piece of legislation concerning medical cannabis patients is the implementation of a ‘per se’ limit of THC blood content for operating a motor vehicle. It’s a policy meant to deter driving under the influence of cannabis. The current laws states:

  • If your THC level is between 2 and 5 ng, you will be charged with a low-level offence and fined up to $1000.
  • If your THC level is above 5 ng, you may receive the same punishment as an alcohol-impaired driving conviction. Expect to receive minimum penalties of a $1000 fine for the first offence, 30 days jail time for the second offence and 120 days in jail for the third offence
  • A mixture of a THC level above 2.5 ng and a blood alcohol concentration above 50 mg per 100 mL could also land you in jail for 120 days.
Road sign with cannabis leaf crossed off

Image Credit: Karen Roach

Do you know what the average blood THC levels are for medical cannabis patients? Your answer is probably ‘no’, and you would not be alone as there is very little research addressing this question. As such, there is a pressing need to better understand the link between blood THC content and impairment. In particular, the current ‘per se’ will allow for police to prosecute for the presence of THC in the blood without having to prove that the individual is too impaired to drive, as cannabis impairment is very difficult to determine with a standard roadside sobriety test.

Police Officer holding out a Breathalyzer

Image Credit: High Times via Huffington Post

To address this gap in knowledge, a multi-disciplinary team of neuroscientists, computer scientists, medical doctors and biomedical engineers are currently looking for research participants to take part in a study approved by the University of Windsor Research Ethics Board (REB) Committee that aims to explore how much THC is present in blood, urine and exhaled breath over a period of 5 hours and correlating to cognitive impairment after consumption.

If you are interested in contributing to this study, please contact the team for more information and to determine your eligibility to participate.

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