Device To Test Drivers For Cannabis Impairment Approved In Canada

By Victoria Kim 08/01/18

After legalizing cannabis in June, Canada's government is cracking down on drugged driving.

generic mouth swab test

Our neighbor to the north has settled on a method that law enforcement officers will use to test motorists for cannabis impairment.

Canada became the first major economy, and the second country in the world after Uruguay, to legalize cannabis this past June. With legal sales to begin on October 17, it appears that Canada won’t have to wait for a reliable test that can detect cannabis impairment in motorists.

Immediately following the decision to legalize (with Bill C-45), Canada made major changes to its impaired driving laws with Bill C-46, High Times noted.

This included the use of roadside drug tests, but now, the government has approved a specific device for the job—the Dräger DrugTest 5000, a roadside saliva drug test device that analyzes a mouth swab for the presence of THC.

The device was approved by Canada’s Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, following a review of its effectiveness by an independent panel of traffic safety experts and toxicologists.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the device—already in use in Germany and the UK—tests for the presence of cannabis, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone and benzodiazepines, but does not measure the level of intoxication.

Gauging if someone is “high” on cannabis is more complex than testing for alcohol intoxication. It’s uniquely difficult to test for impairment from cannabis because THC can remain in a person’s system for weeks, therefore its presence does not necessarily indicate that a person is impaired.

This has presented a challenge as more federal and local governments choose to legalize cannabis in some form.

While the Dräger device does not specify impairment, neither does Bill C-46, which gives police officers broad discretion when it comes to motorists who come up positive for THC. They are allowed to charge a driver with drug-impaired driving “based solely on the presence of THC,” High Times reported.

However, officers will still need “reasonable grounds of suspected drug activity” to administer a drug test on a driver.

The Canadian government will continue to invest in improving drug testing to counteract drugged driving. According to High Times, the national government has allotted $81 million over five years to purchase drug-testing devices and toward training police officers on how to use them.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr