Driving While Under the Influence...
"Unfortunately, the new drug-impaired driving law has proven to be very costly, time-consuming, and cumbersome to enforce and prosecute."
Traffic Injury Prevention journal article, Law professors Robert Solomon, Erika Chamberlain
"We're moving forward. We're not quite there yet."
"Any piece of technology will be challenged. And it will be challenged almost continuously."
Doug Beirness, impaired-driving research consultant
Under 2008 Criminal Code amendments, a police officer suspecting a driver may be impaired by drugs can lawfully demand the driver take part in a physical co-ordination test, called a Standardized Field Sobriety Test. Should the driver fail the test, the officer can then compel him/her to attend to a police station for a longer evaluation by a certified drug-recognition expert.
If the expert believes the driver is impaired by a particular drug at the evaluation's culmination, the expert can then order the driver to submit a blood, urine or saliva sample to enable confirmation of the presence of the drug in question.
However, the article from which the quote above appears, also claims that only 1,126 drug-impaired driving charges were laid in 2012 in Canada, representing less than two percent of the total impaired driving charges of that year. "Canadian courts remain skeptical about the link between the presence of drugs in a person's system and the actual impairment of his or her driving ability", also observed the article.
And this is precisely where a B.C. technology company comes in, producing what it claims will be the first commercial marijuana-detecting breathalyzer. A prototype remains a few months away from release and requires further testing, but it's on its way.
MADD Canada recently visited Parliament Hill to emphasize the workability of random roadside saliva test.This is a protocol already in use in Australia and Europe.
Unlike the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration threshold, there is no scientific consensus regarding what level of consumption of certain drugs might cause impairment, throwing yet another spanner in the works of good intentions.
So, then, the Cannabix Breathalyzer, a hand-held device whose purpose is to detect marijuana, now in the last stages of development by B.C. technology company West Point Resources, is timely indeed. According to company officials their device will inform within minutes whether someone has consumed marijuana within the past two or three hours, supporting the observations of police.
"The likelihood of conviction goes up a lot more", company president Kal Malhi, a retired British Columbia RCMP officer said. He spent four years of his RCMP working life in the drug section. Not everyone is convinced, however.
"With all work that was done in Western Europe and Australia, if there was a reliable breath test for cannabis, I would've thought it would've (already) been pursued in the EU", commented Robert Solomon who also acts as legal adviser for MADD Canada.