The law legalizing cannabis in Canada is now in effect. This is a significant change, since a substance that was previously criminal is now completely legal.
But what are the impacts of this important change on your driving habits and your car insurance?
Impaired = all substances
Impaired driving remains dangerous, whether because of alcohol or a drug.
In Quebec, the highway safety code already prohibits impaired driving, whether impaired by alcohol, drugs or even medication. While the tolerance for alcohol is 0.08 as the blood alcohol level, the federal regulations stipulate that, for cannabis, it is the THC level in the blood that will be measured. A THC level between 2 and 5 nanograms will result in a fine, while a level above 5 nanograms could result in a criminal charge. Note that a combination of lower alcohol (0.05) and cannabis (2.5 nanograms) will also be considered an offence.
It should also be noted that several provinces have zero tolerance for impaired driving when it comes to young or new drivers or commercial vehicle drivers.
Accident coverage: nothing changes
With regard to your car insurance, the automobile insurance contract in Quebec does not include any exclusion related to the use of drugs or alcohol. Your insurer is therefore required to compensate you for property damage to your vehicle in accordance with the provisions of your contract, even if the damage was caused while you were impaired. The same applies to damage caused to other people covered by your civil liability coverage.
Impact on premiums
At this time, it is difficult to determine precisely whether the legalization of cannabis will have an impact on the cost of insurance. Indeed, we cannot generalize about how each insurer will treat this new risk.
However, studies clearly show that, contrary to some beliefs, cannabis use reduces driving skills by influencing judgment, motor coordination and reaction time. As the legalization of cannabis could normalize and increase its use among the population, the consequence could be an increased risk of accidents.
Also, as with impaired driving demerit points, a cannabis offence could complicate your access to car insurance and increase your premium.