Toking and Driving: A DUI Lawyer Reviews Roadside Reefer Testing Policy
Although most Canadians support the legalization of marijuana, the lack of reliable roadside testing has always been an issue. Police can conduct field sobriety tests if they suspect a driver is impaired, but no devices equivalent to the breathalyser have yet been implemented.
In today’s post, Toronto drinking and driving lawyer John Erickson shares some news about marijuana roadside testing technology. Read on to learn what the federal government is doing to prevent “toking and driving” in 2017.
More Ontarians are driving while high
In a recent interview with CBC news, Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said: “There’s just no doubt about it, we’ve seen an increase in the number of drug-impaired driving incidents over the past one or two years.”
Little scientific research has been conducted on the effects that cannabis has on drivers. This has left room for pro-marijuana advocates to insert their own beliefs about the drug’s potency, which may have contributed to the increased willingness to drive under the influence. MADD surveys found that both adolescents and parents believed that smoking marijuana and driving was less serious than drinking and driving. Until concrete scientific data is published, these dangerous attitudes will persist.
No baseline of impairment has been established
The blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 is well-known, but no similar empirical baseline of legal impairment has yet been established for marijuana. Roadside testing prototypes are able to detect the presence of THC, the mind-altering substance found in cannabis, but they are less effective for measuring precise levels.
Determining this baseline level of legal impairment will be crucial for the regulation of marijuana in Canada. In the U.S., marijuana is medicinally or recreationally legal in 24 states, but no clear consensus on impairment levels has been set. Current limits range from zero nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood to five.
Some opponents of legalization have pointed to this inconsistency as being one cause for the increase in fatal crashes in Washington state since their legalization of marijuana in 2012. According to the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, which could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving.”
Until clear regulations have been set, the best legal advice you will get is to abstain completely from “toking and driving.”
Roadside testing kits are being developed
The RCMP is currently testing three different roadside devices to detect and measure marijuana use in drivers.
Building on the system currently being used in Europe, Liberal MP Bill Blair says that the key to keeping our roads safe is oral fluid testing. If an officer suspects a driving is under the influence, they can procure an oral fluid sample by swiping a special plastic stick across the suspect’s tongue. The saliva sample is then mixed with enzymes in the roadside testing kit. If the driver is under the influence, a red line would appear on the stick within three minutes. At this point, the officer would have the right to take the driver to the station for a full test. Similar oral fluid kits are already being used to great effect in Europe.