Police are warning B.C. residents not to light up a joint in their cars. (Unsplash)

Driving with dope: Police talk rules on cannabis in the car

Even though pot is legal, you can’t smoke in the car

Now that weed is legal across the country, you can drop by your nearest (legal) cannabis store and pick up you package of pot – but how do you get it home?

According to B.C.’s traffic police, you should be careful in how you transport your cannabis. Cpl. Mike Halskov said that the rules for carrying pot in a car are similar to the open container law for alcohol.

“You obviously can’t consume cannabis while operating a vehicle,” said Halskov.

In short: don’t be like a Winnipeg man who received a whopping $672 ticket for allegedly lighting up a joint while in his vehicle just hours after cannabis became legal nationwide.

But even if the keys are out of the ignition, Halksov said, you can’t light up in a car – and neither can your passengers.

“That’s similar to having a passenger drinking a beer in a vehicle, you can’t do that either,” he said.

And just like a bottle of beer, even if you’re not lighting up the joint you still aren’t allowed to have a pack of pot in your cupholder or in your pocket while in a car.

“It’s going to be much like transporting open liquor,” said Halskov.

“The exception [with cannabis] is if it’s still in the packaging, unopened, and still not accessible to the driver or passenger,” said Halskov.

READ MORE: ‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

READ MORE: After 10 years of fighting drunk drivers, Alexa’s Team asks: What about pot?

Legal cannabis, he said, should come in a package similar to cigarettes where it’s clear if the seal has been broken.

But what if you’ve bought your pot, smoked some, and then want to take the rest to a friend’s house?

“Let’s say you go to a restaurant and you order a bottle of wine…. you can do that, you just can’t have it accessible to anybody in the vehicle,” Halskov said.

The same rules apply to pot.

“It should be kept in the trunk or away from easy access of anybody in that vehicle,” said Halskov.

Halskov acknowledged that on day two of legalization, there are still a lot of unknowns.

“It’s going to be a learning curve for everybody – the police and the public,” he said.

READ MORE: Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

READ MORE: 10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

But what’s not unclear, Halskov said, are that police will continue to enforce impaired driving laws just as they did in the decades before legalization.

New laws brought in both federally and provincially give police “additional tools in our tool belts,” he said, to keep high drivers off the roads.

Drivers with between two and five nanograms of THC per millimetre of blood can be fined up to $1,000.

Drivers with more than five nanograms of THC in their blood will receive a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for their first offence, a mandatory jail sentence of 30 days for their second offence and a mandatory jail sentence of 120 days on any further offences.

If a driver is found at a fault in a fatal crash, they could be sent to prison for life.

In B.C., police can impound a car for 90 days if they “reasonably” suspect that a driver is impaired by drugs. To avoid the impoundment, drivers must pass either a standard field sobriety test or a saliva test at the roadside.

New drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program will have a zero-tolerance policy for any THC in their blood, similar to the rules for alcohol.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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