When recreational marijuana is legalized in Canada next week, B.C. will be the largest jurisdiction in the country that doesn’t allow ridesharing services.
That is why the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada are pushing the B.C. government to change that as quickly as possible.
Advocates are concerned that cannabis-impaired driving and enforcement remains a significant public safety concern and there are not enough options for people to stay away from impaired driving.
“Impaired driving, whether it is from alcohol or cannabis, is 100 per cent avoidable,” said MADD Canada national president Patricia Hynes-Coates. “It is up to the provincial government to ensure there are a range of safe transportation options available not just downtown Vancouver but across Metro Vancouver and the entire province. That is why B.C. needs ridesharing.”
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Both the provincial and federal governments are in the midst of public information campaigns before the Oct. 17 legalization date. The campaigns are designed to educate people about the risks of driving while impaired from cannabis use.
According to the latest National Cannabis Survey, over the last three months, one in seven cannabis users reported driving within two hours of use. Five per cent of respondents said they had been in a vehicle driven by someone who had used cannabis within the previous two hours.
“Ridesharing is an important public safety tool that will help ensure impaired drivers stay off the road. Existing options often are expensive and inadequate for those travelling at peak times or in suburban and rural areas that are currently underserved,” said Barinder Rasode of the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education. “With the legalization of cannabis taking place in a matter of days, it’s time British Columbians had an affordable and reliable travel option for getting a safe ride home.”
British Columbia has been grappling with whether to allow ridesharing services in the province. The government is expected to introduce legislation this fall that will act as a first step for opening the door to services like Lyft and Uber.
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ICBC has been asked to put together an insurance package that would allow for ridesharing companies to be properly insured by the public insurer. But Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has said not to expect ridesharing companies to be operating until at least Christmas 2019.
Applications from companies wanting to operate in the province will start in the fall of 2019. The B.C. government previously promised ridesharing would be available for consumers by the end of 2017, and then pushed that promise to the end of 2018.
“We were pleased to hear Premier Horgan commit to ridesharing legislation this fall,” said Ridesharing Now spokesperson Ian Tostenson. “It is critical that regulations brought forward by government ensure local and global players are able to start up. For example, artificial caps on the number of taxis or ridesharing vehicles hurts service and the availability of safe rides.”
The province has committed to more taxis on the road. The provincially operated Passenger Transportation Board will allow current licence holders to increase the size of their fleet by 15 per cent. The target is to have an additional 500 taxis province-wide, about 300 of which will be in the Lower Mainland.
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