Sus­pected cannabis-im­paired driv­ers more ex­pen­sive to test: re­port

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - LIANE Faul­der

It’s more costly for po­lice to deal with a sus­pected cannabis-im­paired driver than one sus­pected of driv­ing drunk, sug­gests a new re­port head­ing to city coun­cil­lors.

94 ar­rests

New num­bers in a re­port to be pre­sented to city coun­cil’s com­mu­nity and public ser­vices committee on Oct. 16 show that in the first eight months of the year end­ing in Au­gust 2019, city po­lice ar­rested 94 drug-im­paired driv­ers, com­pared to 69 in the same pe­riod in 2018.

Of those, 29 were sus­pected to be im­paired by cannabis, com­pared to 17 in the first eight months of 2018.

While the over­all ef­fect of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion has been “lower than ex­pected,” po­lice note that may be be­cause it was hard for the public to get the drug in the early months of le­gal­iza­tion, ow­ing to sup­ply chal­lenges.

“Be­cause of the lim­ited sup­ply, con­sump­tion lev­els are still down, and a com­plete pic­ture of cannabis im­pact on polic­ing has yet to emerge,” reads the re­port from city ad­min­is­tra­tion, based on an up­date from the Ed­mon­ton Po­lice Com­mis­sion.

Po­lice do know one thing — it takes six times as long to process a cannabis-im­paired driver com­pared to a driver im­paired by al­co­hol, ex­plains the re­port. For cannabis, an of­fi­cer spends six hours pro­cess­ing an im­paired driver, com­pared to one hour for a driver im­paired by al­co­hol.

$536 vs. $89

This dif­fer­ence re­flects the time re­quired to com­plete a spe­cial­ized field so­bri­ety test, to ad­min­is­ter a test by a drug recog­ni­tion ex­pert and take a blood sam­ple. The min­i­mum cost to have one of­fi­cer deal with a cannabis-im­paired driver is $536.88, com­pared to $89.48 for an al­co­hol-im­paired driver, sug­gests the re­port. Those costs don’t in­clude labour for paper­work or court ap­pear­ances.

City coun­cil has re­quested that the po­lice com­mis­sion re­port to the com­mu­nity and public ser­vices committee ev­ery quar­ter through­out 2019 about the im­pact and costs of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion on the ser­vice.

In May 2018, city coun­cil ap­proved $1.4 mil­lion for city po­lice to pre­pare for cannabis le­gal­iza­tion and to im­ple­ment a mit­i­ga­tion plan.

In Novem­ber 2018, po­lice asked for more funds to pay for new po­si­tions, train­ing and equip­ment to deal with cannabis, but the re­quest was turned down. More than 750 of­fi­cers have been trained on cannabis en­force­ment to date.

The re­port notes of­fi­cers have seen an in­crease in “er­ratic and dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour” by cannabis users with no pre­vi­ous his­tory with the po­lice or crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.


It takes po­lice of­fi­cers six times longer to process driv­ers im­paired by cannabis than those im­paired by al­co­hol, sug­gests a new re­port to a city committee.

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