Zero tolerance for pot use with drivers: report

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There should be zero tolerance for pot use by drivers or their passengers, a new report by the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario branch recommends.

The report, Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, also says that all marijuana revenue should go to fund mental health and addiction services, and that the minimum age to purchase the product should be 19 years old.

“The risk is that legalization of cannabis may lead to an increase in use among Ontarians,” Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario, said in a statement Monday. “When taken together, our recommendations can minimize the harms associated with cannabis use and support a public health approach to this issue.”

As the Justin Trudeau government gets set to legalize pot by July 2018, CMHA Ontario prepared a report for the provincial government with recommendations on how to go forward.

The report says marijuana legalization should be viewed through a public health lens.

CMHA Ontario anticipates an increased need for mental health and addiction support services with legal pot, especially for youth and heavy consumers “ranging from brief interventions for at-risk users to more intensive interventions,” as well as extensive public education campaigns.

The “most concerning” issue is driving high, with data already showing that an estimated 10.4 million vehicle trips a year involve a motorist that had used marijuana, the report says.

Testing for drug-impaired driving may not accurately reflect the level of impairment, it says.

“Because the technology to detect an individual’s level of impairment due to cannabis is still in development at this time, CMHA Ontario recommends a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis consumption in any motorized vehicle in order to ensure road safety during this time of transition,” the report says. “A zero-tolerance policy would include both the driver of the motorized vehicle, as well as any passengers in the car. It is important that a clear message be sent to the public as soon as possible regarding zero tolerance for impaired driving due to cannabis use.”

While the Canadian Medical Association, which represents the nation’s doctors, called for a minimum legal pot-buying age of 21, CMHA Ontario suggested the lower age of 19.

“Frequent cannabis use can harm a developing brain and there is no evidence that supports a specific age when cannabis use is safe for young people,” the report says. “However, there are concerns that a higher minimum age may contribute to young people accessing cannabis from illegal sources. Establishing a higher minimum age standard will be less effective in undermining the black market, and may leave youth both criminalized and reliant on it.”

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