Canoe
December 9, 2018

Don’t expect to see a spike in the number of pot-impaired drivers busted by police until oral tests are used to catch stoned motorists, cautions the head of MADD Canada.

Andrew Murie said most police forces have not purchased oral testing equipment for pot.

“There has only been one oral fluid device approved so far. There’s a couple more in the works that’ll be approved,” he added. “Most police services across Canada, unlike York (Regional Police), have not purchased any of the oral fluid equipment yet and are not using it.

“And so I don’t think we’re really going to see wide-use of the oral fluid technology until the later part of 2019 just because police want options,” said Murie. “And I’m not criticizing them for that. I don’t blame them. And they want to make sure their officers are properly trained. Six months from now most police will be up to speed and I think you’ll see the numbers change.”

MADD’s survey data “tell us there’s twice as many drivers under the influence of drugs than there are on alcohol,” said Murie.

“And so we see all these alarming impaired driving charges being (handled) by police, the majority of them are for alcohol, not for drugs. And it actually should be the other way around if the survey data is consistent with what we’re seeing on the road,” he said.

“If you look at the fatalities, the latest national number show the number of drug present fatalities double than it was for alcohol,” added Murie. “So we’re concerned. I just hope we don’t have a horrible tragedy involving drugs before police are up to speed.”

York Regional Police are one of the few forces using the oral testing device, but Const. Andy Pattenden said when stopping drivers, officers are still relying on a combination of roadside sobriety tests and the new oral test.

“We do have the machines to test for oral fluids for the presence of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient in pot) or other drugs,” said Pattenden.

“At this point in time — because they’re so new and they have these limitations and issues associated with them — we’re still relying on our officers that are trained in field sobriety testing. We have a few (the oral fluid tests), whether they’re using them on a regular basis, I just don’t know. They’re in sort of a testing phase for us.”