Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Federal government launches new Don't Drive High ad

Campaign having the intended effect, says minister resposible for marijuana file

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This article was published 29/4/2019 (294 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ottawa launched the second phase of its "Don't Drive High" campaign Monday: a 30-second video that depicts fatal consequences for a group of teens who smoke cannabis before getting behind the wheel.

The latest step in the public-awareness campaign was unveiled by Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair during a news conference at Toronto city police headquarters.

The campaign's first video was launched in December 2017, some 10 months prior to cannabis legalization. It depicted teenagers livestreaming a marijuana-smoking session on a social media app, before driving to a party and crashing.

The new video, entitled "Eye-opener," picks up where the first left off. It shows first responders arriving at the crash scene and transporting a victim to hospital, where viewers witness a failed effort to resuscitate another victim. The English versions of both videos end with the tagline: "Your life can change in an instant. Don't drive high."

Canadians will see the video on television, on social media, and in movie theatres until the end of June. The messages will also be published in print outlets and displayed on mobile apps, and signage will be displayed in bars, on university campuses, and on public transit.

An image from the new Don't Drive High video shows a victim of a cannabis-impaired car crash dying in hospital. (Government of Canada)</p>

An image from the new Don't Drive High video shows a victim of a cannabis-impaired car crash dying in hospital. (Government of Canada)

The campaign is having the intended effect, especially among young people, Blair said. The Liberal minister in charge of the cannabis legalization file said Ottawa has not seen an increase in the detection of people driving impaired by drugs, despite legalization and the proliferation of new roadside drug detection tools used by Canadian police.

"So public education is having an effect," said Blair, who cited an unspecified 2018 survey he said showed an increase in the proportion of young Canadians who believe cannabis use negatively impacts driving ability.

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"This is real progress. That means young people are starting to get it."

Blair also announced $17 million in federal funding over five years to police drug-impaired driving in Ontario, part of an already-announced $81-million fund to train more Canadian police officers in roadside drug detection and provide them with new equipment to that end.

"This will mean more training and refresher courses for police officers… in standardized field sobriety testing," said Blair, referring to a roadside-testing protocol designed to help assess whether a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

More than 14,400 Canadian police officers were trained in that technique as of November 2018, according to figures provided by Public Safety Canada.

Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, says polive have not seen an increase in the detection of people driving impaired by drugs since legalization. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, says polive have not seen an increase in the detection of people driving impaired by drugs since legalization. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The new funding will also train more Ontario officers as "drug recognition experts," who can administer more in-depth tests to drivers and formally determine whether a person is considered legally impaired. More than 900 Canadian police officers were certified in that program as of February, according to Public Safety Canada.

On Monday, Blair touted federal Bill C-46, a Liberal law that gave Canadian police the power to demand a driver's bodily fluids for testing if they believe they have been using drugs. Only one roadside saliva-testing device is currently available to Canadian police, the Draeger DrugTest 5000. Blair said a second device, the Abbott SoToxa, will be available to police soon.

Bill C-46 also set strict legal limits on the concentration of drugs in a driver's blood, and created criminal offences for drivers whose blood-drug concentrations are found to exceed those limits in a blood test.

"We know that people are deterred by a greater likelihood that they will, in fact, get caught, and that there will be significant and serious consequences for getting caught," said Blair.

"But we also are are that public education and awareness are an important piece of the puzzle. And given the flippant, and in some cases reckless attitude that many people have demonstrated with respect to drug-impaired driving, public education is an important component of our response."

solomon.israel@theleafnews.com   

Twitter: @sol_israel

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