With the looming legalization date for cannabis set for July of 2018, police forces around the country are preparing to enforce cannabis-impaired driving laws.
With 40 to 50 per cent of its impaired fatalities linked to drugs, and many resulting from a combination of drugs and alcohol, Edmonton’s Police Chief Rod Knecht has said that without accurate tools for cannabis akin to breathalyzers for alcohol, “we are, quite frankly, not the least bit prepared for it.”
“It’s going to make the life of the front-line police officer more challenging and more difficult, quite frankly, and I think it’s going to plug up the criminal justice system … I don’t think there’s a police chief in this country that would say we’re ready to go by July 1.” Rod Knecht, Edmonton Police Chief
In a report released by Statistics Canada last December, approximately 3,000 of 75,000 impaired driving incidents reported by police across Canada in 2015 involved drugs, with seven fatalities. The report also revealed that cases involving drug-impairment usually took twice as long to progress through the court system, and were less likely than alcohol related cases to end in conviction.
Public Safety Canada is in the process of testing roadside oral fluid tests for cannabis, but Dr. Louis Francescutti, an Edmonton emergency room physician and professor in the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, said those tests have so far been inconclusive. Not only that, but studies have shown that THC can be detected in the bloodstream of someone only exposed to secondhand smoke, which makes tests that prove positive for THC problematic in court. “Unless something miraculously happens within the next couple of months,” he says, there’s no way they’re going to be ready in July.”
While previously firm on the July 1st deadline for cannabis legalization, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now hinted that the date could be pushed back if necessary.