Canadians are being urged not to drive while high in a new national public awareness campaign being launched one week before legalization.
MADD Canada, Tweed and Uber Canada joined forces to announce the campaign in Toronto on Wednesday. The campaign, which officially starts on Thursday, offers 101 things to do instead of driving while high.
Representatives from MADD Canada, an advocacy group, Tweed, a cannabis company, and Uber Canada, a ride-hailing company, told reporters that Canadians are well aware that it's not socially acceptable to drive while impaired by alcohol, but they need to be made more aware of the risks of driving while impaired by marijuana.
The new campaign will help to fill that gap in awareness, they said.
"To bring it back to a single message that I hope you will take away what I've said, we are the biggest cannabis company in the world, we're the best-known cannabis brand, working with respected partners, and we're asking you: 'please, do not drive high,'" said Mark Zekulin, president and CEO of Tweed.
"Play it safe, find another way to get where you're going, or do one of the other 101 better things until you're sober."
The 101 things to do are listed at a website, DontDriveHigh.ca, which is launching on Thursday. They include such things as eat a cookie, shine your shoes, call your grandparents, pop some bubble wrap and appreciate some art.
MADD Canada national president Patricia Hynes-Coates said the campaign uses humour to convey a very serious message that Canadians should not get behind the wheel when impaired by marijuana. Hynes-Coates lost her stepson, Nicholas Coates, to an impaired driver in 2013.
"It draws people in with 101 fun things to do instead of driving high. And then it reinforces the risks of driving and encourages people to choose a sober ride home," she said.
She said the campaign is creative, fun and engaging, provides all sorts of alternatives to driving while high and underlines the fact that impaired driving puts drivers, passengers and other road users at risk.
"Legalization is just days away. Together we are ramping up the awareness and education efforts around cannabis and driving," she said.
"It's really important that people realize that impaired crashes do not have to happen, whether it is by alcohol or drugs. It's really important that we get the message out to everyone that driving impaired is never, ever worth the risk."
According to the three representatives, the campaign will be "across all media channels," appearing in radio, TV, print and online. It runs through the Christmas period and will be ongoing after that.
Canadians need to make 'smart decisions'
Adam Blinick, public policy director for Uber Canada, noted that Statistics Canada, which collected cannabis data from May to June, found that one in seven cannabis users with a driver's licence said they had driven a vehicle at least once within two hours of using the drug in the past three months. Men were nearly two times more likely than women to report this behaviour.
"There's just a huge gap of knowledge in this area and more that needs to be done to convey the message of how important it is to not drive high," Blinick said.
Canadians need to make "smart decisions" to protect themselves, their loved ones and other people on the roads, he said.
For their part, Tweed and Uber will offer 40,000 promo codes for up to $5 off an Uber trip in markets where Uber operates in Canada, except in Quebec. The codes will be available through the DontDriveHigh.ca website.
MADD Canada is a charitable organization committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting victims. It has volunteer groups in more than 100 Canadian communities.