EDITORIAL: Legal pot poses legal questions

A consistent model for enforcement will be needed once marijuana is legalized

Whether you agree with the decision to legalize marijuana or not, that train has left the station and is scheduled to roll down the track on July 1, 2018. The question we need to focus on now is how it will affect the rights of citizens, law enforcement and the courts.

Once the smoke settles, there must be clarity and consistency in how the police and the judiciary deal with offenders under the federal government’s new impaired driving legislation aimed at reducing carnage on our roads.

A ruling by Justice Nigel Kent on May 18 quashed a charge of impaired driving against a Vancouver man who, according to the police report, had “glassy red eyes” and a “strong odour of marijuana” on him, as well as pot grinders in plain sight in his vehicle.

“The alleged reasonable and probable grounds in this case really boil down to a combination of slow driving, vegetative marihuana and glassy red eyes,” Kent stated in his ruling. “Absent more objectively compelling circumstances, however, three ‘mere possibilities’ do not a reasonable probability’ make.”

On the flip side of that decision is a 2017 incident in Langford where a woman had her licence suspended for three months following a routine traffic stop. While she freely admitted that the passenger in her vehicle had just smoked marijuana, she also insisted she has never smoked pot, and repeated that, in a sworn affidavit she filed in an attempt to overturn the suspension.

What’s clear is that both cases illustrate the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Civil liberties groups and lawyers have already started to ramp up the rhetoric that the new proposed impaired driving legislation goes too far, and you can probably make an argument for that in the Langford woman’s case.

Contrarily, the Vancouver man appears to have gotten away with something, despite reasonable police evidence that he was guilty. Both examples underline the need for clearly defined, consistent legal boundaries before we enter a new era in 2018. It is paramount that a balance be struck that protects individual rights while addressing the risk impaired drivers pose to the rest of us.

Goldstream News Gazette