One in 10 respondents to a recent State Farm Canada survey admit that they have driven under the influence of marijuana (45% within the past 12 months), but nearly half this group said they don’t believe marijuana impacts their ability to drive safely.
State Farm Canada conducted the online survey last month of 3,061 people of driving age across the country. The poll follows the recent tabling of federal legislation centred around the legalization of marijuana.
“Generally, the path toward legalization seems to be changing how Canadians feel about marijuana, largely in a more accepting way,” State Farm Canada said in a press release on Tuesday. “Nearly 70% feel that marijuana use has become more acceptable.”
On the issue of marijuana and driving, as mentioned, one in 10 respondents admitted that they have driven under the influence of marijuana, but nearly half of this group said that they don’t believe marijuana impacts their ability to drive safely. This is an increase of 5% from 2016, but also shows that “users have a very different view of driving while high than the rest of the population,” the release said. When the same question was asked of Canadians in general, 73% felt that marijuana use would impair the skills necessary to drive.
“It’s clear that those who admit to driving while under the influence of marijuana don’t believe it’s as dangerous as those who don’t,” said John Bordignon, a spokesperson for State Farm Canada, in the release. “With legalization now imminent, the need for more public education and awareness is clear, marijuana is a drug, and like alcohol it affects your abilities and senses. Law enforcement and the legal system need the necessary tools and laws in place to ensure the safety of all Canadians on our roads.”
Regarding marijuana and impaired driving, the survey found:
80% said they are concerned about people driving under the influence of marijuana;
83% felt that there is not enough information available about the risks associated with driving under the influence of marijuana;
Three out of four don’t believe, or are unsure, that police have the tools and resources to identify marijuana-impaired drivers;
38% believed that stiffer penalties would discourage people the most from driving while high. This is closely followed by stronger roadside testing (30%), which jumped up by 11% when compared to the 2016 survey;
75% said that people who drive while high should have the same legal penalties as those who drink and drive;
73% believed that people who drive high should be given an impaired driving charge; and
68% did not feel that the Canadian legal system has made progress over the past year to deal with people who drive under the influence of marijuana, whether in the form of testing, legislation or public awareness.
The survey also revealed that 86% of Canadians said that they have not driven under the influence of a drug, whether prescription or illicit. However, 14% admitted they have driven under the influence of a prescription or over-the-counter drug that was a stimulant or sedative, and 7% of respondents say they have driven under the influence of an opioid (narcotic) medication.
Three-quarters (76%) of Canadians worry about people driving under the influence of prescription drugs. When asked what age group people associate with prescription drug-impaired driving, respondents were split between people aged 16-25 (27%) and people aged 55 and over (27%). Interestingly, respondents in these two age groups associated their own age bracket with prescription drug-impaired driving the most, the release noted.