Committee Accepts Drug Screening Device for Impaired Driving

The Drugs and Driving Committee is currently reviewing three additional devices, according to a spokesman for the agency. This will help combat drug-impaired driving.

The Drugs and Driving Committee (DDC) has accepted one drug screening device for evaluation. In addition, they are currently reviewing three additional devices, according to a spokesman for the agency. How Canada will manage impaired driving has been a major concern for law enforcement, politicians, and stakeholders.

Health Canada Survey

A recent survey for Health Canada shows that 39% of polled cannabis users say they’ve driven within two hours of smoking cannabis. Many police have stated they expect an increase in incidents of cannabis-impaired driving. Also, they have expressed a concern with a lack of testing equipment and funding available to law enforcement.

Last summer, Public Safety Canada released the results of their Oral Fluid Drug Screening Device Pilot Project from the previous winter. The program was intended to coincide with the government’s promise to legalize cannabis. They worked in collaboration with Public Safety Canada, the RCMP, and the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

The testing took place between December 18, 2016, and March 6, 2017. Over 1000 oral fluid samples were collected by law enforcement officers across Canada. The results were analyzed two oral fluid drug screening devices: the Securetec DrugRead and the Alere DDS-2. These devices have been used and tested in other jurisdictions, as well.

An increase in drug-impaired drivers

drug impaired driving
Marijuana survey results provided by State Farm. via State Farm

According to Public Safety Canada, drug-impaired driving has been on the rise in Canada since the police-reported data became available in 2009. The agency notes that the 40% percent of Canadian drivers killed in auto crashes test positive for drugs. In contrast, drivers who test positive for alcohol is at 33.3%.

In addition to testing for THC, the department requires the machines also be able to detect cocaine and methamphetamine as target compounds for analysis.

The Federal government has also launched a “Don’t Drive High” campaign to better inform Canadians of the risks and penalties for impaired driving. The website states that Canadian men are 2.5 times more likely than women to have driven a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. Furthermore, drug-impaired driving incidents occur every 3 hours in Canada each day. The website also notes that more than one in four cannabis users has reported having driven under the influence.

Other drug-impaired figures

drug impaired driving is increasing
Mark Kleiman one of America’s leading experts on the regulation of cannabis and other controlled substances, and an advocate of criminal-justice reforms aimed at reducing incarceration levels and violent crime. via VICE

These figures are, however, challenged by other studies which show different data. Conflicting data makes addressing concerns with impaired driving and cannabis in a post-legalized world challenging.

Concerns with drug-impaired driving have been a major part of the debate around legalization in the House of Commons. Many opposition members noted that police forces in Canada are unprepared to deal with legal cannabis. Also, there is no reliable impairment detection devices for cannabis or cannabinoids.

“Driving stoned is more dangerous than driving sober. But the difference is more like the added risk of driving while sleepy or angry than it is the additional risk of driving drunk. It’s nowhere near as dangerous as driving while using a cellphone, even hands-free. Stoned driving should be a traffic offense, not a crime like drunk driving. Traffic risks aren’t a substantial objection to legalization, though of course, smart policy would discourage driving stoned, and especially driving with both cannabis and alcohol on board.” – Mark Kleiman, the architect of cannabis legalization in Washington State.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness have said they are preparing for an increase in enforcement against marijuana-impaired drivers.

No solidified answer

An Ipso-Nanos poll from earlier this year said that a majority of Canadians want cannabis-impaired driving treated the same as alcohol. On the other hand, Canadians feel ‘stoned driving’ is not as big of a concern as drunk driving.

However, the poll shows no consensus on the subject. Nearly 20% of respondents said they don’t believe driving ‘high’ on cannabis to be impaired driving. Only 12% of respondents said the same about alcohol. The report also shows that one in three Millennials doesn’t consider driving while high on marijuana to be impaired driving.