Zero tolerance for drug-impaired driving
Detection tools not available yet
The Government of Saskatchewan announced Tuesday that there will be a zero tolerance policy for people who drive while impaired by drugs.
Earl Cameron, executive vice president of Auto Fund, said the decision was made after the federal government passed new laws in anticipation of marijuana legalization.
“It’s because of the three new federal laws, we want to make sure that our administrative sanctions that we have now, for impaired driving, mirror these three new charges,” he said.
The new attorney general to approve the use of oral fluid screeners, codify what constitutes reasonable suspicion, and what levels of THC would result in a criminal charge.
People found to be impaired by drugs like cannabis while driving would be subject to the same sanctions as someone who is found to be driving drunk, including suspension of a license, or their vehicle being impounded. According to Cameron, drivers who are caught while impaired by drugs will not be forced to install an interlock device on their vehicles, as is the case for some people convicted of drunk driving.
“The mandatory ignition locks don’t read drugs, they only read alcohol,” he said.
The prospect of having to enforce these new laws raises some questions regarding detection, specifically what tools police officers will be issued to give them the ability to detect if a driver is impaired by marijuana. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Ministry of Public Safety in Ottawa. Cameron explained that leading to the summer legalization, the ministry has been working on picking a device for police forces to use across Canada.
“The devices, public safety has put them through a rigorous bunch of testing and they will eventually approve one or two of those devices to be used,” he said.
The devices were tested all over Canada, including a in Saskatchewan.
“They actually did a pilot across Canada and North Battleford was one of the locations where the devices were tested,” he said.
Cameron said SGI does not yet know what devices will be used in Saskatchewan by police forces, as the Ministry of Public Safety has not made a final decision on which ones will be authorized. On its website, the ministry has made public the results of the pilot program regarding the testing devices and what they should be able to do. The report recommended the devices be able to function in very cold temperatures, have the ability to analyze samples in eight minutes city or less and be able to back up the results. Cameron said that what is currently going on in regards to selecting a detection device is not unheard of, historically speaking, as bringing in breathalyzers for alcohol went through a similar process.
“They had to be approved, they had to be legislated and then those become the only devices that can be used,” he said.
The devices are not invasive, requiring only a small sample from someone when they are stopped.
“The roadside screening devices are saliva … they put the swab in the machine and fairly quickly it tells you whether you’re over those per se limits,” Cameron said.