First cannabis roadside testing device to be approved

As Canada quickly approaches the finalization of the legalization of cannabis, included in Bill C-46 which was passed in June, they have authorized the first roadside oral fluid testing devices along with making numerous changes to impaired driving laws.

The oral fluid testing devices, once in use, will allow the police to swab the inside of a person’s mouth to test for the presence of THC, the main metabolite of cannabis as well as other drugs. Theses types of devices will provide the police with a way of determining recent use of the drugs and may lead to further testing, including blood tests.

Canadian police services have been awaiting approval from Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould as to what device would be used for the roadside testing and, as of this past week, her office has given notice of their intent to approve the Draeger DrugTest 5000, which is produced by a company in Germany. This device is already in use by police forces throughout the United Kingdom and Germany, however, the device may have to be configured slightly differently in keeping with Canadian standards, said a Justice Department spokesperson.

Before the Draeger device was approved it was put through rigorous testing by the National Research Council and was also required to pass an evaluation by the Canadian Society of Forensic Science.

Draeger 5000
The Draeger 5000 Drug Screening Device

The RCMP also had to evaluate, and test the efficacy of, the device that would be used by the roadside as Canadian extreme temperatures may be a factor which could influence usability and reliability of the results. The pilot project which was run last year with two different testing devices concluded that the devices are “a useful additional tool for Canadian law enforcement”.

To test for the usability in the harsh Canadian winters, a pilot project was conducted that included sites in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. The officers found that “there were some temperature-related issues that arose when the devices were used in the extreme cold temperatures”. It has been suggested, however, that these issues could be alleviated by having the officers conduct the tests within their vehicles when temperatures drop below freezing.

$81 million dollars available federally over the next five years for police training and equipment.

The police are currently performing roadside impairment testing using a standardized field sobriety test, which requires special training of the officers. The government has stated that there will be $81 million dollars available federally over the next five years to the provinces and territories to implement the training required for the field testing as well as to purchase the testing devices.

The government has also allotted an additional $62.5 million dollars over the next five years to be used for a public education strategy that will include advertising campaigns regarding cannabis legalization.

The new Bill has also brought about changes for alcohol roadside testing. Police now have the right to test drivers without any suspicion or cause to believe that the driver has been drinking. This change has caused critics to site the change to the law as unconstitutional. However, this right has not been extended to drug testing and officers will still need grounds to suspect a driver is impaired by drugs and demand a roadside test. The Bill also brought into play per se limits for levels of drugs within the blood which allows police to lay criminal charges based on the level of THC within their blood, without having to prove impairment.

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