Zero tol­er­ance for drug-im­paired driv­ing

De­tec­tion tools not avail­able yet

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - OPINION - MICHAEL JOEL-HANSEN

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.

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