With the Oct. 17 legalization date fast approaching, both public and private sector organizations are scrambling to prepare for recreational marijuana to be available in Canada.

Police departments, in particular, are seeing a shift as they prepare for legalization, where enforcement will often focus on preventing impaired driving, rather than arresting for possession or usage.

While anyone 19 and older will be allowed to grow, possess, and consume marijuana when the Cannabis Act takes effect later this month, driving while impaired remains illegal.

The potential effects of additional marijuana users on the road following nationwide legalization has been the subject of numerous studies over the past year.

Half of those who admitted to driving while under the influence of cannabis felt they drive as effectively (31%) or more effectively (19%) than a driver not under the influence.

In July of 2018, Ipsos conducted a poll of 1,000 Ontario residents that was commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

The results of that study have now been released, which show that among current cannabis users (defined as anyone who has used marijuana in the past three months) 48% have driven under the influence at some point in the past.

Those numbers have gone up slightly from a previous Ipsos poll from August of 2017 showing that 4 in 10 Ontario drivers who use marijuana have driven while under the influence.

The study further revealed that half of those who admitted to driving while under the influence of cannabis felt they drive as effectively (31%) or more effectively (19%) than a driver not under the influence.

CAA’s manager of government relations Elliott Silverstein discussed the poll’s findings with CP24. Silverstein commented:

“This study really told us that a considerable number of Ontarians who are cannabis users are getting behind the wheel. In the past three months, it is estimated that about 750,000 Ontarians were getting behind the wheel (after consuming cannabis). It is a staggering number. When we go forward public education is going to be so critical and that is really what we need to do.”

Beyond just smoking marijuana and driving, the poll reported that 28 percent of current cannabis users drove a vehicle while under the influence of both alcohol and cannabis within in the past three months.

“This is a concern for us. People will say they can handle one drink or they can handle smoking a bit of cannabis before they get behind the wheel but it is the impact of two together and not necessarily understanding the causal impact of that,” Silverstein added.