Increase in roadside checks and random screening of drivers for drugs after legalization

A Public Safety Canada report seeks to prepare Canada for an expected influx in marijuana testing requests from law enforcement, employers and insuerers

Public Safety Canada issued documents recently showing they are seeking an outside contractor to help them determine if Canada is prepared for an increase in cannabis testing requests after legalization. The report, entitled "Capacity of Forensic Laboratories in Canada to Test for Drugs" notes an expected increase in roadside checks and random screening of drivers for drugs after marijuana is legal.

While different companies are working on breathalyzers to detect cannabis, the expected influx will be in relation to "samples originating from a human body".

The contractor the agency seeks to hire will need to work with approximately 80 different labs across Canada as well as some in the US, and provide a report back to the government. The increase in testing is expected to be for both drugged driving investigations, as well as private employers and ensurers seeking to determine if employees or policy holders are following rules relating to the terms of a contract.

Increases in cases of cannabis-impaired driving are a concern for the RCMP and Federal Government as the government moves towards legalizing marijuana. The report cites a doubling in recorded levels of driving under the influence of cannabis in Colorado after Legalization in 2012 (from 5.7% in 2012 to 12.3% in 2014) and an increase from 19%-33% in Washington. One of the report's own citations shows that no evidence is available showing increased levels of traffic fatalities after legalization, despite increased instances of THC in drivers' bloodstreams. The correlation of THC in the bloodstream is difficult to connect to actual impairment, and statistics from US states are still very new.

Much of the 38 page document deals with the logistics of lab testing and how the contractor will adhere to numerous rules and regulations, but several pages discuss the background of legalization in Canada and some statistics out of the United States. Issues like driving and cannabis remain big unknown hot-button issues, although many others argue the issue is about impairment, not detection, and that law enforcement already have the tools available to determine if someone is impaired.

In the case of testing for the presence of cannabinoids and other drugs in the drivers’ system, it should be expected that the number of samples requiring lab analysis will increase dramatically once cannabis is legalized, simply because the police will be reacting to the new regime with a similar approach as they do for driving under the influence of alcohol. Roadside checks and random screening of drivers for drugs will likely occur more often, thus increasing the number of samples that will need to be tested for drugs. -Public Safety Canada

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  1. David Martin Reply

    Cannabis affects each person differently, alcohol affects behavior differently and impairs everyone who consumes it. I have used cannabis for over 35 years as my medication. I have been driving for the same amount of time, I have never been in an accident for 35 years, I am an excellent driver and I drive "stoned" all the time. I drive using my medication as an aid, it helps my lower back pain. I am more aware when I drive when I am medicated, I do not pose a risk if I vape a bowl while cruising home from work, If I drank alcohol on the drive home I would be a risk.
    Check Stops for medication ? Are they going to ask if I just swallowed an Tylenol 3 with codeine too ? Absurd, ostracizing government control freaks, that is all this is. If I get pulled over, I will go to court and fight this, my father was an RCMP, he is rolling in his grave over this, I am sure.