AB: Police Push For Roadside Drug Testing Device Ahead Of Marijuana Legalization


Driving impaired is driving impaired – it doesn’t matter what substance a person’s on, but Calgary police and their overseeing commission want to be ready when one in particular is legalized.

This weekend in Ottawa, at a Canadian Association of Police Governance Conference, the Calgary Police Commission put forward a resolution to continue pressure on the federal government to identify and approve a roadside drug screening device, in light of the feds’ commitment to legalize and regulate marijuana by 2017.

“Currently, when police suspect a driver of being impaired by drugs, a drug recognition expert is called to the scene to administer a field sobriety test. A roadside drug screening device would greatly improve the ability of police officers to detect drug impaired driving and provide objective and efficient means of enforcing drug impaired driving laws,” the commission’s resolution read, in part.

“A roadside drug testing regime would be similar to roadside breath testing for alcohol.

“This capability would simplify the current investigative process for drug-impaired driving, including potentially reducing the time a motorist is detained.”

“Given the imminent legalization of marijuana and its proven negative effect on drivers, there is now urgency around acquiring appropriate tools in Canada to enable police to detect drug-impaired drivers roadside so they can effectively enforce road safety laws, especially the stricter punishments for marijuana-impaired drivers that government intends to introduce,” the resolution read.

Insp. Ken Thrower of the Calgary police Service traffic unit told Postmedia Monday there is a fear among law enforcement the laws might be in place before officers on the streets have the device available to them.

But he also said it’s a complicated thing to tackle and likely will not be as simple as suspected impaired drivers providing a breath sample and passing or failing.

Thrower said equally key will be the training of more drug recognition experts (DRE) – people trained to recognize the substance a person is on from certain cues.

CPS currently has many. Thrower wants to see more.

“This device is going to be an aid,” Thrower said.

“If an officer pulls someone over … it’s going to be up to the officer to do the same thing he always did with impaired driving – they will call in the drug recognition officers and they’re trained specifically to evaluate and determine if it meets (impairment criteria).

“This device may help an officer determine, ‘Yes, I need a DRE.’”

There will be times, Thrower said, when the signs of impairment are obvious – driving all over the road, slurred speech, glassy eyes and an inability to stand up are all strong indicators of impairment and officers can immediately lay a charge.

Expressing worry over what’s to come isn’t meant to come across as a rebuke to the feds or anyone else’s stance on the matter, Thrower said – he just wants to make sure his people have what they need to adapt to the changes.

“For the people that will benefit from this, for whatever reason that may be, whether it’s for pleasure or it’s for medical reasons, that’s a whole different discussion and that’s fine – we just want to make sure that people are safe,” Thrower said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Police Push For Roadside Drug Testing Device Ahead Of Marijuana Legalization
Author: Damien Wood
Contact: 403-235-7100
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Website: Calgary Herald