Progress ... Or Problems .... ?
"There is some preliminary research indicating that a breath test can be developed for cannabis. It's slow, expensive and not yet reliable. So we're a long way from a breath test for cannabis ... [despite] some promoters out there who have been touting miraculous, easy, cheap [breath tests."
"The difficulty is that the request for a sample [of urine, blood or saliva] is likely that person is not going to test positive."
"And the simple fact is that our courts haven't been very receptive to the DRE [drug recognition evaluation] evidence."
"We have more people on our roads who are positive for drugs than for alcohol. And yet drug-impaired driving charges constitute two to three percent of all impaired driving charges."
Dr. Robert Solomon, professor of law, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
|Fullerton police Officer Jae Song conducts a field sobriety test on a motorist suspected of driving while under the influence of marijuana. The suspect was later arrested. (Photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)|
The Government of Canada tabled proposed new laws to legalize recreational marijuana for people aged 18 and up in the House of Commons on April 13, to initiate a process set to be completed in a year's time, by July of 2018. The ruling Liberal party made it a campaign promise to legalize pot, and this is the first step in a year-long process to do just that. While legalizing pot, the government asserts it to be the best way to keep marijuana out of the hands of young people.
Canadians also happen to be the heaviest marijuana users in the developed world, and policing the illegal drug is estimated to cost around $3-billion annually. At the present time, its use thrives on the black market where criminals realize hefty profits and push its use. The returns are said to average around $7- to $8-billion annually. The fact that its use threatens normal brain development in young people is sufficiently concerning that it was hoped it would be illegal for anyone under age 25 to use it. But the age chosen is 18 for recreational marijuana use.
The additional looming concern is the issue of driving under the influence of drugs; an existing problem that will be certain to increase substantially with decriminalization. Most people in the general public interested in using cannabis, young and old, think it to be non-addictive, but in a certain percentage of people it does become an addiction. And like any other substance of its nature there are other penalties to the body and the mind that cannabis use can cause.
No doubt the government will ask the Department of Health to launch an education program in that regard. But it is the provinces and the territories that will be responsible for educating, policing, regulating and setting up parameters to be met to remain within the law, and municipalities will be responsible for permits to set up commercial outlets. The quality of the products will also be a concern that one or two levels of government will have to address.
As for policing the issue of driving under the influence, the manner in which those thought to be impaired behind the wheel are to be assessed presents a giant headache at this preliminary stage. Normally when police make an initial assessment of whether a driver is impaired, a simple field sobriety test is engaged: Can you walk a straight line? Can you follow with your eyes the movement of this object? Can you stand on one foot?
Should that line of testing fail, a breath test is taken. And a DRE test follows, a 12-part test dealing with physiological aspects; pulse, temperature, signs of needle marks and symptoms of impairment. After which if impairment is validated, the demand is made for a sample of urine, blood or saliva. And therein lies a problem: cannabis dissipates quickly from the blood while it may be up to two hours where the investigative point is reached where a driver is asked to provide a sample.
|Still from video : Global News|