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Driving with impaired abilities due to drug use has been an offence under the Criminal Code in Quebec since 1925. The legalization of cannabis in Canada in October 2018 raised questions about the levels of THC tolerated while driving and the penalties for driving under the influence of cannabis.

Find out, in general terms, the penalties you could face if you are arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis in Quebec.

What the law says about driving under the influence of cannabis

According to the Criminal Code and the Highway Safety Code, driving while impaired by cannabis is dangerous and severely punishable by law. If there is a detectable level of cannabis, the individual is subject to various penalties. These may vary if blood results show THC levels that are higher than those determined by federal regulations, namely:

  • 2 nanograms (ng) of THC per millilitre of blood
  • 5 nanograms (ng) of THC per millilitre of blood
  • 5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood with an alcohol content of 50 milligrams or more of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

Keep in mind that if the person driving while impaired is involved in an accident causing lesions or death to an individual, he or she may be subject to a prison sentence.

Fines for driving on cannabis

The first measure introduced by the government is a financial penalty for less serious offences. The fine for driving under the influence of cannabis with a rate between 2 ng and 5 ng is a maximum of $1,000. For a rate exceeding 5 ng, the driver may be fined a minimum of $1,000. In the event of a repeat offence, this fine can become a detention.

Imprisonment penalties for driving on cannabis

The incarceration time that results from driving under the influence of cannabis varies greatly depending on the context of the arrest and can range from a few days’ imprisonment to life imprisonment.

The minimum term of imprisonment is highly variable depending on context

This generally begins with a minimum of 30 days of detention if the driver is arrested with a THC level between 2 ng and 5 ng and the offence constitutes a repeat offence. However, a first arrest can also result in a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Therefore, it is important not to underestimate the penalties that can be applied, even with a low THC level.

Life imprisonment as the maximum term of imprisonment for driving on cannabis

While it should not be assumed that a Criminal Code offence caused by THC levels exceeding 5 ng will lead directly to a life sentence, it will likely result in a more severe sentence.

The harshest prison sentences are applied if the driver is involved in an accident that causes injury or death to an individual. In the first case, the penalty may be a minimum of 2 years less a day’s imprisonment and may be up to a maximum of 14 years. If the accident results in the death of an individual, the driver who drove under the influence of cannabis could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Driving under the influence of cannabis, penalties that are not worth the risk

Cannabis legalization has led to increased police enforcement and officers are now very well equipped and trained to detect the presence of THC in the blood. It’s a game that’s definitely not worth it. For any further information concerning driving under the influence of cannabis, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer at the DUI Montreal Lawyer firm.