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What criminal laws apply to driving while using cannabis?

Region: Ontario Answer # 2555

Using cannabis does not legally prohibit a person from operating a motor vehicle unless the driver is:

  • impaired, or
  • subject to a zero tolerance rule because they are young or novice drivers, or fall under a prescribed class, such as commercial drivers.

Roadside tests:

If the police have stopped you, they have the right to ask you a number of questions, including whether you have consumed any alcohol or drugs. Although you do not have to answer these questions, it is advisable to co-operate with the police. The police also have the right to ask you to perform mandatory roadside breath test. In addition, if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a driver is impaired, they can ask the driver to:

  • perform sobriety tests, and
  • provide an oral fluid (saliva) sample.

If the police then believe you are impaired, you could face immediate penalties (such as an immediate licence suspension). In addition, the police may arrest you and take you to the police station or a medical facility for further testing.

A driver convicted of impaired driving will face a number of different penalties under both the federal Criminal Code and the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

Criminal Code drug-impaired offences and penalties

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, section 320.14, impaired driving refers to impairment by alcohol and drugs. With the legalization of cannabis, the Criminal Code was amended to increase some current impaired driving conviction penalties and well as include new drug-impaired offences.

The following are the current drug impaired offences and penalties under the Canadian Criminal Code.

1.    Offence: Driving with over 2 nanograms (ng) but less than 5 ng of THC per millilitre (ml) of blood

 Penalty: maximum $1000 fine

2.    Offences:

  • Having 5ng or more of THC per ml of blood within 2 hours of driving, or
  • Having a combined BAC of 50mg per 100ml of blood + 2.5ng or more of THC per 1ml of blood within 2 hours of driving


  • 1st offence: minimum $1000 fine and maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 2nd offence: minimum 30 days imprisonment and maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence: minimum 120 days imprisonment, up-to a maximum 10 years imprisonment

3.   Offence: Refusal to comply with demand for sample


  • 1st offence: minimum $2000 fine
  • 2nd offence: minimum 30 days imprisonment and maximum 10 years imprisonment
  • 3rd offence: minimum 120 days imprisonment, up-to a maximum 10 years imprisonment

4.   Offence: Impaired driving causing bodily harm 


  • Summary conviction: maximum 2 years imprisonment less a day
  • Indictable conviction: maximum 14 years imprisonment

5.   Offence: Impaired driving causing death – indictable offence

Penalty: Maximum life imprisonment

Plus additional penalties for:

  • 1st offence + BAC of 80-119 ml: minimum $1000 fine
  • 1st offence + BAC of 120-159ml: minimum $1500 fine
  • 1st offence + BAC of 160 mg or more: minimum $2000 fine

Ontario Highway Traffic Act

In Ontario you face immediate penalties for the following drug-impaired related offences.

1.    Offences:

  • Zero Tolerance: violating the alcohol and drug zero tolerance requirement for young (21 and under), novice drivers (with G1, G2, M1, or M2 licenses), and commercial drivers (drivers of vehicles requiring an A-F class licence, vehicles requiring a CVOR- Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration, and road building machines)
  • Failing a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST)

Immediate penalties:

If you commit either of these offences, you will be subject to the following penalties:

First offence:

  • licence suspension for 3 days
  • $250 penalty

Second offence within 5 years:

  • licence suspension for 7 days
  • $350 penalty
  • a mandatory education program (for a second occurrence within 10 years)

Third and subsequent offences within 5 years:

  • licence suspension for 30 days
  • $450 penalty
  • a mandatory treatment program (for third and subsequent offences within 10 years)
  • an ignition interlock condition will be placed on your licence for at least 6 months (for third and subsequent offences within 10 years)
  • you must submit to a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meet the requirements for driving in Ontario (for fourth and subsequent offences within 10 years)

In addition to these penalties, for each time your licence is suspended, you may be subject to a $275 licence reinstatement fee.

Any licensed drivers who is convicted of violating the zero tolerance rule will also face an additional fine of $60-$500 and an additional 30-day licence suspension.

2.    Additional offences:

 You also face immediate penalties for the following offences:

  • refusing to take a drug or alcohol screening test
  • a drug recognition evaluator determines you are impaired

 Penalties for these offences include:

  • an immediate 90-day roadside licence suspension,
  • a $550 administrative penalty,
  • a $275 licence reinstatement fee,
  • your vehicle will be impounded for seven days,
  • mandatory education or treatment program (for second or subsequent offences within 10 years), and
  • an ignition interlock condition will be placed on your licence for a minimum 6 months (for third or subsequent offences within 10 years)

If you are found guilty in court of these offences, you will be subject to the following additional penalties:

  • a minimum 1-year licence suspension for a first offence
  • a minimum three-year licence suspension for a second offence within 10 years
  • a possible lifetime licence suspension for a third or subsequent offence in 10 years (which may be reduced if certain criteria are met)

You will also have to enrol in a mandatory education or treatment program, use an ignition interlock device (for one, three or six years), and undergo a mandatory medical evaluation to determine whether you meeting the requirements for driving in Ontario.

Medical cannabis use and drug impaired driving

Motorists who are legally authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes are exempt from Ontario’s zero tolerance drug rules for young, novice and commercial drivers.

However, all Criminal Code driving offences will still apply. Even if you have been authorized to use cannabis by a health care professional, it is your responsibility to ensure you are not impaired while driving and that your cannabis blood level is under the prohibited limit.

To erase your criminal record for simple cannabis possession or any other criminal charges, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.


For legal advice and assistance with a cannabis related matter, contact our preferred cannabis law expert, Harrison Jordan Law .

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