With impaired driving among the main concerns for police and regulators in the aftermath of recreational cannabis legalization, a new bill has authorized the use of test kits in an overhaul of driving laws.
Bill C-36 marks a new phase of the government’s crackdown on those taking to the road while under the influence. Although passed in June, Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould had to wait for a report from an independent committee comprising of toxicologists and experts on traffic safety.
Now, Wilson-Raybould has given a 30-day notice of a ministerial order to approve the German-made device, called the Draeger DrugTest 5000.
Currently, police use a standard field sobriety test when checking for impaired driving, but in the future they will take a sample of the driver’s saliva to check if there has been any use within the last six hours. The kit is also approved to find traces of cocaine, and a failed test will give officers reasonable grounds to bring the driver in for further testing and an examination by a drug recognition expert.
How Reliable is the Device?
While the science surrounding alcohol-impaired driving is well established, things are hazier when it comes to cannabis, and the reliability of the DrugTest 5000 will likely be called into question by lawyers.
Of particular concern is the kit’s ability to perform in harsh Canadian winters; the pilot project included use during the winter in the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan, and although conclusions pointed to them being largely effective, there were “some temperature-related issues that arose when the devices were used in extreme cold temperatures.”
Government officials had originally been optimistic that the devices would have been in use by March, but this date was pushed back. With legalization of recreational cannabis happening on October 17, there is a good chance that police will be equipped with the test kits, but the ministerial order still needs a 30-day notice period, the devices have to be ordered, and officers need time to be trained to use them.
The DrugTest 5000 is part of ongoing governmental tactics to prevent impaired driving, with a public education strategy recently receiving a $62.5 million boost.