Province’s RCMP prepared to enforce stoned driving laws
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.