When the provincial government announced its plans for recreational marijuana earlier this week, the question came up: What tools will be in place to catch drivers who are stoned on cannabis?
For now, RCMP have to rely on roadside screening by specially-trained drug recognition experts.
There’s a problem with that type of roadside test, said Kelowna criminal lawyer Wade Jenson.
He said such tests are not based on science and there are no accurate measurements.
“It’s very subjective,” Jenson said.
“There’s no scale that is going to be utilized in British Columbia, as far as I’m aware. That’s in contrast to other jurisdictions in the United States. For example, Washington State and Colorado where they do have a set standard — an objective measurable number.”
That measurable number is five nanograms — basically the equivalent of .08 alcohol in the blood stream.
Jenson said the police have the option of demanding a saliva or urine sample if the driver fails the roadside test, but said there will be no way of determining how much THC is in the person’s system.
Jenson predicted that until the authorities come up with a more scientific way of measuring a driver’s THC level, the courts will be busy with drivers challenging the charges.
“The RCMP may try to utilize this 90-day driving prohibition in alleged drug impairment and if they do, I absolutely see a tsunami of challenges to those findings or conclusions the officer has made to impose the 90-day driving prohibition,” Jenson said.
But he’s not the only one who’s worried.
“We have real concerns about the equipment — the test that is being used,” B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.
According to the RCMP, there is currently no device for police officers to detect drug-impaired driving in Canada.
But they have one in mind. It’s called an oral screening device that can detect THC in your saliva.
The device is currently being tested and the Mounties have said it could be ready by this summer if all goes according to plan.
After alcohol, cannabis is the most commonly detected substance among drivers who die in traffic crashes, according the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
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