EDITORIAL: Uncertainty ahead on marijuana issue

As pot is legalized, courts must clarify impaired driving

Regardless of whether one agrees with the decision to legalize marijuana, that train has left the station and is scheduled to roll down the track on July 1, 2018.

The focus now must shift to how those changes will affect the rights of citizens, law enforcement and the courts.

Once the smoke clears, there must be clarity and consistency in how police and the courts deal with offenders under the federal government’s proposed new impaired-driving legislation.

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,” a “strong odour of marijuana” on him and 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, the odour of vegetative marijuana 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 Greater Victoria in which a woman’s licence was suspended for three months following a routine traffic stop. While she freely admitted 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.

Both cases illustrate the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Civil liberties groups and lawyers are already saying the proposed new legislation goes too far. One can make an argument for that in the woman’s case.

In contrast, the Vancouver man appears to have gotten away with something, despite reasonable evidence that he was guilty.

Both examples underline the need for clearly defined, consistent legal boundaries.