What Can You Learn from the Pot-Smoking Mom and Her Speeding Ticket?

Back to school means back to carpooling for many Canadian parents. While most school districts in Canada still offer school buses and many kids live close enough to walk to school, there are a large number of parents who drive their kids to and from school each day. Police routinely step up their presence in school zones during the first few days of school, so it’s no surprise that some parents and other drivers are being stopped for speeding and other safety infractions. What is unusual is that one traffic stop for a speeding ticket almost got a British Columbia mom in hot water for smoking marijuana.

Did Smoking a Joint Impair the Driver?

Many substances and activities can impair a driver’s judgment, concentration, and reflexes. The focus in recent years has moved from driving under the influence of alcohol and illicit drugs like marijuana, to driving while impaired by any number of substances, including over-the-counter cold or allergy remedies and even prescription drugs. In the past few years, we have also seen distracted driving become an offence as studies have shown that this is now the number 1 killer on the roads in some regions.

The question is, did a mom’s celebratory joint on the way home from school significantly impair her ability to drive? Experts tell us that marijuana can affect concentration, memory and reaction time. So there is definitely a reason to be concerned if someone gets behind the wheel after consuming cannabis. But the Saanich PD drug recognition expert found the mom sober enough to drive. This, of course, begs the question of whether the mom would have been speeding even if she hadn’t been smoking pot.

Driving Safety and School Zones

A lower speed limit is enforced in school zones throughout British Columbia, as it is in the rest of Canada. The law in BC says a driver must slow down to 30 km/h – just under 19 miles/hr – in a school zone. While this speed seems unbearably slow for many drivers, it significantly increases the chances a child will survive if hit by a car. All the same, drivers tend not to respect the lower speed limits – and that includes parents who are in a rush to get to work or to get kids home and ready for extra-curricular activities.

Because the lower speed limits are not enforced when school isn’t in session, BC police start reminding drivers about them when the back to school season begins. In many communities there are extra patrol cars on the roads for the first day of school. Some police departments will set up traffic stops and speed traps near the schools, as is done in my community. Lots of tickets and warnings are given out, because even parents need reminding about safety rules after a whole summer away from school.

Is Marijuana Possession Still Criminal in Canada?

Despite plans of Canada’s current government to begin the process of legalizing marijuana possession in 2017, it’s still a crime to possess pot. Possession charges can carry both a fine and jail time if the individual is convicted. So the police officer could have theoretically arrested the Saanich mom when he smelled marijuana and she admitted to smoking the joint. Instead, she was checked by the drug recognition expert to be sure it was safe to let her drive home. And she was given her speeding ticket for driving too fast in the school zone – just like other drivers that day.

What Can We Learn from the Mom and Her Celebratory Joint?

While many Canadians hoped that there would be a moratorium on any charges for marijuana possession after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected last fall, the Prime Minister warned that drug laws would still be enforced. Does this mean that Saanich police were giving our pot-smoking mom a break? It could be. But as the Georgia Straight reminds us, BC police record thousands of drug offences in their databases every year – but only about 7% of marijuana violations in the province result in official charges. Many people who report having a casual encounter with police later discover their names have been recorded in relation with a drug offence that could potentially come back to haunt them later.

So what can we take away from the story of our pot-smoking mom and her back to school joint? Well, first of all, cannabis still sells news in Canada. If this mom had just gotten a speeding ticket, we wouldn’t even be talking about her. Secondly, the Saanich police would seem to be more interested in safety than in punishing a parent for smoking marijuana – even if she did it before getting behind the wheel. We can also see the focus on safety in the effort that police throughout British Columbia and the rest of Canada are putting into public awareness as our kids head back to school. Lastly, we can see that while pot smoking can impair a driver, one joint won’t necessarily intoxicate a driver enough to pose a safety risk. It will be interesting to see how Canada deals with cannabis use and driving, once marijuana becomes legal across the nation.


Mom stopped for speeding in a school zone: Was marijuana to blame?

Would she have been speeding if she hadn’t smoked that celebratory joint?
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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne
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  1. Donna Thacker

    My take is she would probably have been speeding, celebratory joint or not. From my understanding pot slows you down, it doesn’t cause you to go faster, lol.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      That was exactly my way of looking at the Ross Rebagliati incident at the 1998 Olympics. I didn’t believe that cannabis enhanced his performance any more than drinking a nice chamomile tea would have. Pot certainly isn’t going to make anyone speedy!

  2. Sandy KS

    Basing my opinion on personal experience. I believe the woman would of been speeding if she had not smoke cannabis. As most cannabis smokers will drive slow or stop at green lights holding up traffic.

    Personally I think alcohol is worse than cannabis.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I couldn’t agree more, especially with the last bit! Alcohol has far worse impacts, both in terms of drunk driving and just overall behaviour when people get drunk.

  3. Pat Z Anthony

    The only thing I learned is that reporters still report things that usually don’t matter. Research has shown repeatedly those using pot are not the ones speeding.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I love that we have so many enlightened people here at BlogBourne! Yes, I can believe what you say about the research. i haven’t really looked into the link between speeding and cannabis, but it seems very unlikely.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      That’s a question I had to look into, Meshack! i had wondered if maybe it had to do with people growing the marijuana plants in pots indoors. But according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it’s something entirely different. The first use of the expression is noted in 1938, and “pot” is “probably a shortened form of Mexican Spanish potiguaya ‘marijuana leaves.'”

    2. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I think you mean a “pipe” in the case of smoking pot or hashish. There is, of course, a bowl to any pipe. And I suppose some improvised pipes or bongs may have been made from clay pots or some such…

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I agree that alcohol is worse for driving – and in general. Pot’s impact depends on so many factors – not just how much is smoked, but also the strength of the sample, whether the person is a habitual user, whether it’s smoked or eaten, etc.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      Interesting slogan there, John! But am I reading it right? It sounds to me as if you’d need to use pot to have potential 😛

  4. Susan

    I’m wondering about the age of the children who were in the car. Where I live, it’s against the law to smoke in a car when there are children below a certain age present. So if this woman’s children were young, perhaps she would have gotten a ticket for that. Police officers consider many things when deciding exactly what charges to bring when speeding (or other lawbreaking) is involved. I tend to be a black-and-white, yes-or-no kind of person when it comes to those who disregard laws, so I’d say if she was smoking pot and it’s against the law to do so, she should have gotten a ticket or been arrested for that. But I wasn’t there and I don’t know the law there, so I’d go with the discretion of the police officer involved. Interesting discussion.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I wondered about the kids too, Susan. There was no mention of them in the article, so I think what happened is that she dropped them off and THEN smoked her joint while parked near the school. Then she got back on the road and got caught at the speed trap.

      In BC, it’s illegal to smoke in a car if there is anyone under age 16 present.

  5. Savannah

    So wait, this woman was smoking a joint after dropping her kids of at school to, like, celebrate her freedom? That’s hilarious!!!!
    I highly doubt the weed had anything to do with her speeding…unless she was hurrying home to get something to eat. HA!

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      I love your take on it, Savannah! Maybe she did have the munchies…

      I honestly don’t know whether the mom herself said she was celebrating, or whether that’s some editorializing on the part of police or journalists. But “celebratory joint” has been quoted again and again in the news stories! I thought it was funny too. I mean, do you want to be rid of your kids that much???

  6. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

    I think that’s exactly the way they treated her pot smoking: the same way they would somebody who had taken a single drink. And I agree, it’s fair to look at it this way. I’m just eager to see legalization happen here, as so many people are being unfairly branded as criminals for using an herb that most of us feel is about on par with a glass of beer.

  7. gunjan

    I think that any kind of addiction slows your instincts down or gives a sense of hyper so probably she was on a high and so got a speeding ticket, but overall i enjoyed reading your post.

    1. Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      If she was slowed down because she had smoked a joint, I think it’s unlikely she would be “hyper” or speedy in any sense. But I do agree that anything that can affect a driver’s reflexes and focus is a concern – even driving while tired. It doesn’t have to be an addictive or illicit substance.

  8. Vickie Ewell

    I’ve seen a lot of traffic, including parents, not respect the lower speed limit in school zones here as well. This is such an amazing story to me. Granted, mom might have been stretching the truth when she said “celebratory” to try and justify her behavior, but its really mind-blowing that this story included a group of parents and not just one.

  9. Heather Denniston

    For me, it always comes down to the kids and her responsibility. I have been around a mom and dad that smoked pot at the same time and then would have been useless if there was an emergency. So I don’t know the data on driving while under the influence of marijuana. It is really those other things that concern me more.

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