Province’s RCMP pre­pared to en­force stoned driv­ing laws

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - JONNY WAKE­FIELD With files from the Na­tional Post jwake­[email protected]­

ED­MON­TON Al­berta RCMP of­fi­cials say they’re ready to en­force Canada’s stoned driv­ing laws when cannabis be­comes le­gal on Wednesday.

But a num­ber of ques­tions — in­clud­ing when they will re­ceive roadside test­ing equip­ment and how they will with­draw blood from sus­pected drug-im­paired driv­ers — re­main unan­swered.

RCMP of­fi­cials held a news con­fer­ence at K Divi­sion head­quar­ters in Ed­mon­ton Fri­day to ex­plain their ap­proach to drug-im­paired driv­ing en­force­ment ahead of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion.

“This is noth­ing new for us,” RCMP Chief Supt. Brad Mueller said. “Im­paired driv­ing by drugs — we’ve been en­forc­ing that for many years. With the ad­di­tion of the new tools and tech­nolo­gies, we’ll con­tinue that.”

But prov­ing some­one be­hind the wheel has re­cently con­sumed mar­i­juana is dif­fer­ent from de­tect­ing a drunk driver, and is likely to pro­voke le­gal chal­lenges.

Mueller said Al­berta RCMP have or­dered four Drager Drug Test 5000 screen­ing de­vices — the first de­vice ap­proved by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­tect mar­i­juana and other drugs in saliva.

The de­vices will be “strate­gi­cally de­ployed” around the province, and of­fi­cers have started train­ing in their use, he said.

How­ever, the de­vices them­selves have not yet ar­rived, and Mueller did not know when ex­actly they would be de­ployed.

“We won’t be in pos­ses­sion of them by Wednesday,” he said.

Crit­ics say the de­vice has is­sues op­er­at­ing at cold tem­per­a­tures and has a false pos­i­tive rate be­tween 12 per cent and 15 per cent.

Of­fi­cers can also be trained to de­tect im­paired driv­ers.

Around 400 Al­berta RCMP of­fi­cers are trained to ad­min­is­ter the stan­dard field so­bri­ety test, Mueller said, and 42 of­fi­cers are trained as “drug recog­ni­tion ex­perts.”

One of those of­fi­cers, Cpl. Richard Nowak, said drug recog­ni­tion ex­perts fol­low a 12-step process to de­ter­mine whether some­one is high, in­clud­ing five “phys­i­cal co-or­di­na­tion/di­vided at­ten­tion” tests. They also take clin­i­cal mea­sure­ments — blood pres­sure, body tem­per­a­ture, pulse rate, and pupil di­la­tion “so we can see if their body is op­er­at­ing as if they’re sober, or if there’s a drug in­flu­enc­ing those read­ings,” he said.

Drug recog­ni­tion ex­perts are not trained to draw blood, an­other chal­lenge in the new leg­is­la­tion.


Cpl. Richard Nowak con­ducts a drugim­paired driv­ing Check­stop demon­stra­tion in Ed­mon­ton on Fri­day. Al­berta RCMP have or­dered four drug screen­ing de­vices to help them de­tect driv­ers who have con­sumed mar­i­juana.


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