OTTAWA – Regular medical marijuana users are being unfairly targeted by the Conservative government’s new drug-driving legislation, which will increase penalties and make it easier for police to crack down on people who do drugs before getting behind the wheel, a national advocacy group warned today.
“This law, we feel, would unfairly target marijuana users,” said Russell Barth, a medical marijuana user and member of the National Capital Reformers. “Discriminating against us based on our medication … is much like discriminating against us based on the colour of our skin.”
Justice Minister Vic Toews revived on Tuesday a Liberal-era bill designed to catch drug-impaired drivers through roadside checks and blood samples, an initiative that’s failed twice before and raised concerns about court challenges.
Under the proposed law, drivers suspected of being high would be required to perform physical tests at the side of the road, such as walking a straight line. If they fail, they’d be sent to the police station for further testing and then be forced to surrender blood, saliva, or urine samples.
The federal government’s testing scheme for drugs would include penalties for people who refuse to co-operate, Toews said. Ottawa also plans to provide about $2 million in police funding to carry out the testing.
Although the Conservative government said the bill will help keep roads safe, marijuana proponents say it will create a courtroom backlog and unfairly target people who use the drug for medicinal purposes.
Barth pointed out that some drivers take over the counter medication, eat, talk on the phone and engage in other behaviour that could affect their driving ability. “This new law might exclude me (from driving after using marijuana) while failing to exclude me while using more harmful medication,” said Barth. He added he would easily be able to pass a roadside sobriety test after using marijuana.
Toews introduced the legislation Tuesday accompanied by Mike Rider, whose 16-year-old son, Dave Rider, was one of five teens from the Ottawa area killed seven years ago by a young driver high on marijuana.
Article from CanWest News Service