Fatal Accidents Increase Significantly after 4/20 Celebrations

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

April 20 has become an international holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis. These mass marijuana festivities usually begin at 4:20 p.m. and continue well into the night.

A recent study has revealed that there was a slight increase in fatal U.S. car accidents on April 20 following an analysis of 25 years worth of data. Studies such as this one provide important information to the Federal and Provincial governments in deterring marijuana impaired driving in anticipation of the legalization of marijuana this summer in Canada.


Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto compared driver deaths on April 20 with deaths occurring on a day of the week before and the week after during the 25 year study of U.S. data. The study confirmed that fatal car crashes were increased by 12% (142 driver deaths) on the evening of April 20. The study also found that the risk of fatal accidents among young drivers (under the age of 21) increased by 38% in the evening of April 20.

Dr. John Staples, lead author and an internist and researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, stated,

The simplest explanation is that some drivers are impaired by cannabis use, and these drivers are contributing to fatal crashes. There should be very clear messaging to the public: don’t drive high.

Although the study lacks evidence on whether marijuana was involved in any of the April 20th fatalities (as there was no police data on drug testing to confirm that marijuana was involved), researchers believe that the drug was responsible for some of the crashes.


Although marijuana has the reputation of being a relatively harmless drug, it can have short-term affects on reaction time, motor co-ordination, divided attention, short-term memory and decision-making skills.

Marijuana affects each individual differently based upon factors such as the person’s tolerance, and the strain and potency of the marijuana being used. Some who use marijuana experience a sense of relaxation, while others may experience panic, fear, anxiety or psychosis.

Following alcohol, cannabis is the substance most commonly associated with “driving under the influence”.

In Colorado (one of the first states to legalize marijuana in the U.S.), the number of deaths caused by auto-related accidents involving marijuana increased by 145% from 2013 to 2016. By 2016, 20% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents involved marijuana (in comparison to 10% in 2013).


As we have previously blogged about, Ontario has implemented new measures to keep our roads safe by implementing tougher drug-impaired driving laws.

Ontario has enacted zero tolerance rules prohibiting young (age 21 and under) and novice (G1, G2, M1, M2) drivers from having the presence of a drug in their system. For a first offence, young and novice drivers will face a three-day suspension and a $250 fine. A second offence will result in a seven-day suspension and a $350 fine and all subsequent transgressions will result in a thirty-day suspension and a $450 fine.

Commercial drivers will also be subject to zero tolerance rules prohibiting them from having any alcohol and drugs in their system. For any offence, a commercial driver will face a three-day suspension and a $250 to $450 fine.

Ontario has also introduced escalating monetary penalties to all impaired driving offences starting at $250 for a first offence and increasing up to $450 for third and subsequent occurrences.


As we prepare for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada this summer, we should consider ways to avoid driving while impaired and being a passenger with an impaired driver.

We should all be reminded to:

  • Always have a designated driver; or
  • Call a friend or loved one to pick you up; or
  • Call a cab or a ridesharing service; or
  • Stay overnight and sleep it off.

It is also strongly recommended that we have an open dialogue with our children and reinforce the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is also recommended that parents model safe driving behaviour by never driving any vehicle while impaired.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Ontario’s Framework for Marijuana Regulation: An Update

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As provinces across the country continue to debate the timing of cannabis (i.e. marijuana) legislation in their respective jurisdictions, lawmakers have begun to turn their minds to how the drug will be regulated once it is legalized.


Marijuana is currently illegal in Canada and is listed under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Current exceptions exist only for those individuals who have been authorized to use cannabis for medicinal purposes by their health care provider. These individuals can purchase quality-controlled cannabis from a producer who is licensed by Health Canada, or produce a limited amount of cannabis for their own medicinal purposes.


In April 2017, the federal government announced legislation to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis by July 2018. The proposed Cannabis Act, if passed, will establish rules for producing, using, and selling cannabis across Canada. The federal government left the design and implementation of sales and distribution to each province and territory.

Ontario was the first province or territory in Canada to publicly outline a comprehensive plan to sanction federally legalized cannabis. On September 8, 2017, Ontario announced a comprehensive framework outlining the province’s approach to the retail distribution of recreational cannabis.


Ontario proposes to make it illegal for individuals under the age of 19 to buy, sell, possess, share, and grow cannabis. This is comparable to the age limit for the sale of tobacco and alcohol in Ontario.

Police officers will be authorized to confiscate small amounts of marijuana from individuals under the age of 19, but the seizure will not result in a criminal record. The person in possession of the marijuana may be subject to provincial fines.

The province of Ontario is intent on protecting its youth and will focus on “prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.”

The Ontario government also plans on creating a public education campaign focused on informing young people about potential dangers of marijuana usage.


Ontario is planning for the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana to be overseen by the LCBO. However, marijuana will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol, and edibles or cannabis-infused foods will not be sold online or in retail stores.

The government of Ontario will proceed to work with municipalities, local police services, the OPP, and the federal government to help shut down any marijuana dispensaries that operate outside of the new parameters, once they are in place.


It has been suggested that online distribution will be available across the Ontario by July 2018 and 150 stand-alone cannabis stores open by the end of 2020 (80 stores to be opened by July 1, 2019).

Ontario will comply with federal requirements that limit advertising and require behind-the-counter sales similar to the way in which tobacco is currently sold. Staff will be required to follow strict requirements for age verification. Staff will also undergo mandatory training and have knowledge of products and how to use cannabis.

Delivery of online sales would require ID checks, signatures upon delivery, and no packages would be left unattended at the door.


Ontario proposes to restrict the places where marijuana can be consumed. It is suggested that cannabis not be used in public, in workplaces, or in motorized vehicles. Individuals will only be permitted to use recreational cannabis in private residences. These restrictions will be similar to those used to control the consumption of alcohol in public spaces and workplaces.

The Ontario government has advised that it will explore the possibility of allowing specific establishments where cannabis could be consumed legally.


Under the federal government’s proposal, adults would be allowed to have up to 30 grams of dried legal cannabis and people under 18 years old could have up to five grams. The government of Ontario appears to be in agreement with these possession limits.

We will continue to provide updates regarding the legalization of cannabis in Canada as this information becomes available, and will blog about updates as they arise.

In the meantime, if you are facing a drug related charge or have any questions concerning your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We maintain a 24-hour call service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Provinces Discuss Delaying Marijuana Legalization

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Premiers from across Canada are meeting in Edmonton this week to promote interprovincial-territorial cooperation and address issues, challenges, and needs of Canadians. One of the topics at issue is the planned legalization of marijuana, which is currently scheduled for July 1, 2018.

A Potential One Year Delay

Manitoba’s Premier, Brian Pallister, is attempting to persuade his fellow Premiers to ask the Prime Minister to delay marijuana legalization by one year (making it effective July 1, 2019). Pallister raised several concerns that he hopes can be addressed through delaying any official legal changes to marijuana’s status in Canada.

Firstly, Pallister wants to learn from the regulation of beer, wine, and spirits and believes that the delay would avoid the problems associated what he has called a “hodge-podge” of the different ages of majority across the country. Both the age of majority and regulations around things like where pot could be sold are the responsibility of each province.

Secondly, Pallister wants more information and additional research into the health impacts of marijuana, including ways of measuring cannabis impairment for drivers. He believes that:

“There are too many unanswered questions, too many issues that have not been addressed for us to rush into what is an historic change.”

Pallister also hopes that extending the deadline will allow for the creation of stronger and more effective campaigns to ensure that driving under the influence becomes as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving currently is. He believes that this has not yet been properly or fully addressed.

Current Positions of Various Premiers

Other Premiers, including Saskachewan’s Brad Wall and Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil, have indicated that their provinces are working towards the original July 1, 2018 deadline. However, Wall has stated that he likewise wouldn’t mind an extension, as there are a “lot of moving parts” to making such a big change, and McNeil has noted that it is important for all Premiers to be on the same page.

Ontario is not counting on any extension, and is currently conducting public consultations on marijuana in advance of the original deadline; however, Kathleen Wynne has noted that work is still being undertaken to develop policies on public and traffic safety, on protecting youth, and on determining where pot will be sold.

Quebec’s Premier, Philippe Couillard says that he is likewise not expecting a delay and the province is also working under the assumption that the date of any legislative change will continue to be July 1, 2018.

The Federal Government Plans to Stick to Their Original Deadline

Earlier this summer, the federal government stated that it would stay “firm” on its plan to legalize marijuana by next year, even if it has to “backstop” any provinces that are not ready to tax or distribute the drug by that time. Prime Minister Trudeau noted that the federal government had given provinces and municipalities “lots of time” to comply with pending changes and that it was “time to move on”.

That announcement came in the wake of concerns from federal and provincial finance ministers about whether Canada was ready for legalization after a meeting between the ministers ended with no consensus on a coordinated strategy to tax cannabis.

The Federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, stated that tax rates on marijuana should be kept low to prevent marijuana users from potentially seeking out cheaper, illicit sources for pot. He noted that his department had begun to do research into possible tax rates, and what price levels could deter a black market for weed, but that no conclusion had been reached.

However, Ontario’s Finance Minister, Charles Sousa, noted that the provinces will want to ensure that any tax revenue from marijuana will cover what he calls the “substantive costs” that provinces will have to face to prepare for legalization (including law enforcement, public health, education, and distribution).

Morneau was firm that marijuana will be legal by the original deadline, even if Ottawa has to “backstop” provinces that will not be ready with distribution networks, by providing alternate options, such as delivery of marijuana via mail. He noted that he intends to meet with his provincial counterparts again in December and hopes to make significant progress.

We will continue to monitor developments in this area, and will provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, if you have any questions about drug offences,  including possession or trafficking, or any other criminal defence matter, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Refuses to Consider Pending Changes to Marijuana Legislation when Sentencing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP


The conversation around pending changes to marijuana legislation and how it relates to those tied up in the criminal justice system today continues to provide us with judicial decisions.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal recently overturned a trial judge’s decision to issue a suspended sentence to a man, who was convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking and trafficking over 20 pounds of marijuana.

A Lenient Trial Judge

At the man’s first trial, the judge considered existing sentencing guidelines and whether ordering jail time would violate the man’s rights under Section 12 of the Charter (which protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment).

The judge stated, “I understand that my task is to approach the debate in a common‑sense way with a view to determining if the sentencing regime created by Parliament manifests itself in a grossly disproportionate punishment.”

The trial judge went on to consider a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision, which had found that “[Courts] should be careful not to stigmatize every disproportionate or excessive sentence as being a constitutional violation, and should leave to the usual sentencing appeal process the task of reviewing the fitness of a sentence. Section 12 will only be infringed where the sentence is so unfit having regard to the offence and the offender as to be grossly disproportionate.”

This left the trial judge to summarize “’Merely excessive’ is tolerable. It is only when the sentencing result reaches the frontier of “cruel and unusual” or “grossly disproportional” that the Charter remedy is triggered.”

The trial judge then examined the man’s history, which did not include any previous criminal activity. In fact, he played an active role in community involvement and was involved in both academic and business pursuits. The trial judge concluded “No larger good is served sentencing [this man] to jail. He poses no danger to the community. He has conducted himself well as a citizen but for this single unfortunate foray in the mire of the drug world. To be certain, as he attempted to engage in a criminal enterprise, his crimes are deserving of denunciation and deterrence. However, facing the reality that the product in which he dealt is to become legal, it should be said that the decibel level of such denunciation and deterrence may be less than it otherwise would be.” The man was ultimately issued a suspended sentence.

On Appeal

Prosecutors appealed the trial judge’s decision to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal., which reached a much different conclusion.

The Court of Appeal specifically noted the trial judge’s consideration of pending changes to Canada’s marijuana legislation, writing “After observing that the federal government was taking steps to legalize marijuana, he proceeded to sentence [the man]. The trial judge suspended the passing of sentence for two years subject to certain conditions.”

The Court of Appeal went on to state “Judges are bound to apply the law as it exists not as it might be in the future especially when, as here, it is unknown when the law will be changed, what the terms of it will be and how it will affect the offences of trafficking drugs or possession for the purpose.

The Court added “The possible future legalization of possession of marijuana can have no legal effect on the sentencing regime,” and, “it is an irrelevant extraneous factor that could, in this case, play no part in sentencing considerations. The trial judge’s reliance on this factor was an error of law.”

The man was ultimately given a sentence of 15 months.

To speak with an experienced Oshawa criminal defence lawyer about drug trafficking or possession of drug charges, call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.


New Penalties for Drug-Impaired Driving in Ontario

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On October 2, new penalties came into effect for drug-impaired driving in Ontario. These new sanctions are part of the province’s Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, passed in 2015, and introduce immediate consequences for drug-impaired drivers that are similar to those that are already in place for drivers impaired by alcohol.

New Sanctions for Drug-Impaired Driving

Under the new changes, drivers impaired by drug use face the following consequences:

  • A $180 fine;
  • An immediate 3-day license suspension for the first occurrence; 7-day license suspension for the second occurrence; 30-day suspension for third and subsequent occurrences;
  • A possible 90-day license suspension and 7-day vehicle impoundment depending on drug testing at police station;
  • Mandatory education or treatment programs;
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device on vehicles for drivers with two or more license suspensions related to alcohol or drug in a 10-year period.

This is in addition to existing impaired-related criminal charges, which can result in jail time, loss of a driver’s license, and additional fines.

The intention of these new penalties is twofold. First and foremost, the penalties are intended to deter drivers impaired by drugs from going on the road. Secondly, the penalties are also intended to immediately take away an impaired person’s right to drive if they do go on the road and are caught.

What Does this Mean in Practice?

As Canada prepares to legalize marijuana, driving high has emerged as one of the biggest hurdles confronting the federal government’s task force on marijuana legalization.

At the same time, charging drivers who are high will be challenging. Unlike a Breathalyzer test for alcohol, there currently is no comparable cheap and reliable test for measuring THC or other drug content in blood. For instance, existing tests can reveal the presence of THC, but they do not establish how recently it was smoked as it may linger up to 12 hours after the person who smoked it felt any effect. The other option is using costly, invasive, and legally questionable blood tests. However, even if a blood sample comes back positive, there is currently no legally established limit for THC content as there is for alcohol.

Some clarity may be coming with respect to what will be needed to successfully convict someone of drug-impaired driving. The Supreme Court of Canada will soon be hearing the appeal of Carson Bingley. While driving in 2009, Bingley’s car crossed the centre line of a busy Ottawa street barely missing oncoming traffic and forcing other drivers out of the way. He then pulled into a parking lot and hit another car. Two separate drivers contacted police, suspecting Bingley of impaired driving. At the police station, Bingley admitted to smoking marijuana. The SCC’s decision will provide much-needed guidance on what kind of testimony will be admissible in a drug-impaired trial. The outcome of this decision will have an impact on criminal charges for drug-impaired driving.

Until further clarity is established, Ontario drivers should be aware of the new penalties that are already in place in the province.

If you are facing impaired driving charges, contact our office online or at 905-404-1947 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Oshawa lawyers. We have 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Trust our experienced lawyers to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.