The Government of Canada has recently announced it will fund $5.4 million over five years to support frontline law enforcement officers to combat drug-impaired driving in Saskatchewan. According to a news release by the federal government, funding is aimed to ‘increase capacity among frontline police officers in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluation to detect and deter drug-impaired driving and enforce the new legislative offences.’
The official government website states that the funding will also be used to ‘develop standardized data collection and reporting practices for analyzing trends, identifying gaps and providing an accurate picture of drug-impaired driving in the province, and across Canada.’ Moreover, the $5.4 million to be received by Saskatchewan is part of the $81 million to be funded to provinces and territories to support public and road safety activities.
In order to receive the funding, Saskatchewan has established a specific training objective of 100 officers trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) for 2018-2019 and up to 300 officers over three years to bring the capacity to 33% of frontline officers, as well as to train an additional 100 officers as Drug Recognition Experts over five years.
According to CBC News, in the first six months following its legalization, there were only seven people in Saskatchewan charged with cannabis-related impaired driving. In contrast, there were 596 alcohol-related impaired driving charges during this period in the province.
Moreover, there have been no cannabis-related impaired driving charges Regina since its legalization last October. However, prior to cannabis legalization, Regina Police Chief Evan Bray had mentioned to CBC he was concerned about “hidden costs” associated with it, but recently said his initial concern may have been overstated.
“We’ve done some fairly concentrated efforts on illegal dispensaries in the city and that did have a cost associated to it,” said Bray. According to the Regina Police Service mid-year crime report, no additional costs incurred were incurred by the police force due to cannabis legalization.
“We’ve had many drug-impaired driving charges, but usually meth, cocaine or other drugs,” Bray added. “We’ve had people that we’ve charged with impaired driving due to alcohol where we know they also had consumed marijuana and I think that’s one thing that we have to remember.”
Ryan Ehalt, Constable of the Saskatoon Police Service, told CBC that although the police force had not laid any charge specifically for cannabis-related impaired driving charges, the SPS also does not record the specific drug responsible for the impairment charge. However, the SPS does record alcohol impairment and combination drug and alcohol impairment charges.
“Beginning October 17, 2018, there have been 194 Impaired charges laid for impairment by alcohol alone. During that same time period there have been 20 Impaired charges laid for impairment that has been attributed to drug/alcohol,” Cst. Ehalt told CBC News. According to the SPS, the absence of cannabis-related impaired driving charges was not related to the lack of training.