Canadian Underwriter

MPs debate police resources to detect drug-impaired driving

November 13, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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Despite a promise this past September to provide “up to $161 million” to address drug-impaired driving, a Toronto-area opposition member of parliament claimed recently that Canadian police departments are not able to “manage the increased threat of impaired driving associated with the legalization of marijuana.”

With Bill C-45, currently before Parliament, Canada’s ruling Liberals are aiming to make it legal for adults to have up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in public by next July.

But Canada “is unable” to train police officers “at home on how to recognize marijuana-impaired driving,” Bob Saroya, Conservative MP for Markham-Unionville, said Nov. 9 in the House of Commons during debate on Bill C-45.

“There is currently no instrument that can accurately measure the level of marijuana impairment roadside,” Saroya said.  “We do not have the technology or resources, so the government needs to send officers for expensive, lengthy training in the United States.”

Bill C-45 was the subject of hearings in September before the Standing Committee on Health.

The Saskatchewan justice department is “concerned that drug-impaired driving will increase due to legalization, and significantly higher numbers of standard field sobriety testers, SSFT, or drug recognition evaluators, DRE, must be trained and in the field when legalization takes effect very soon from today,” Dale Tesarowski, executive director of corporate initiatives, performance, and planning for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, told the Commons health committee Sept. 11.

Related: Oral fluid drug screening devices can be “successfully used in Canada,” Public Safety Canada reports

In late 2016, Public Safety Canada announced a pilot project intended “to test how well officers are able to use certain roadside drug testing devices on motorists under different weather conditions.” Those devices would test saliva for the presence of certain drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and opioids.

“We have listened to the concerns of law enforcement,” said Bill Blair, Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest and parliamentary secretary to Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, before the Commons Nov. 9. “We have made available $161 million to provide them with training, resources, and access to technology and legal authorities that they have asked for.”

With Bill C-45, the Liberals are providing “$240 million to support law enforcement to detect and deter drug-impaired driving,” suggested Celina Ceasar-Chavannes, Liberal MP for Whitby, Ont.

In addition to Bill C-45, the Liberals have also introduced Bill C-46, which passed third reading Oct. 31 in the Commons and was tabled the following day in the Senate.

Related: Opposition MPs concerned about lack of a ‘ready, usable, reliable roadside screening device’ for marijuana impairment

“Bill C-46 would authorize police officers to use roadside oral-fluid drug-screening devices to help them determine whether a driver had drugs in his or her body,” Wilson-Raybould told the Commons Oct. 27. “If police officers had a reasonable suspicion that a driver had a drug in his or her body, they would be authorized to demand a sample of oral fluid for analysis at the roadside. A positive result on the drug screener would be highly indicative of recent drug consumption and could lead to further investigation, either by a drug recognition evaluation officer or through a blood sample taken by a qualified technician.”

But Tesarowski told the Commons health committee in September that roadside testing for marijuana is “still in its infancy” and that there are not any approved roadside devices.

“The costs of these devices are likely to be significant, and our law enforcement and municipal officials are very concerned that the combination of training needs, device procurement, and the ongoing per-test and analysis costs will be much greater than they can absorb,” Tesarowski added.

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3 Comments » for MPs debate police resources to detect drug-impaired driving
  1. Ed Wood says:

    Measuring THC levels at the roadside will not prove impairment. And the per se levels in C-46 will ensure that the vast majority of stoned drivers will not be prosecuted.

  2. Mark Taylor says:

    Oral swabs have been used in other nations for over a decade – what do you mean there are not any approved roadside devices. YOU are IGNORING them! Simple solution – you use a drug – you do not drive. You have NO RIGHT to take the life of another. CO Dep Public Health states there is SIGNIFICANT evidence that following smoking pot to wait AT LEAST 6 hr, after an edible wait AT LEAST 8 hrs. Other countries have ZERO tolerance. Why are you NO saying this??

  3. Here’s the issue with legalization! If you consume cannabis it can take up to 90 days before it disapates in your system. If You are a person with more body fat! That time increases. So they will go NOWHERE in court!! With charges! Because with legalization someone could have smoked a day prior or 12hrs they are still going to test positive. With alcohol there is a set amount. You can have a glass of wine or 2 and still drive legally. With out a way to pinpoint what constitutes intoxicated on marijuana. They can only tell if it has been used. Not when, or how much!
    Federally I’m exempt from the new impaired by marijuana law. As a medical user! The Dr’s recommendation is waiting 20min after smoking or vaping. And 1hr for ingesting it

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