Canada is set to legalize recreational marijuana in only a few short months, and that also means the country's authorities are preparing their own plans for stopping drivers from getting behind the wheel while high.
As the date for recreational marijuana draws closer, Canadian authorities are working on finalizing plans for combating high drivers. Last year Public Safety Canada spent $81 million setting up a new system that will detect "central nervous system depressants, inhalants, dissociative anesthetics, cannabis, central nervous system stimulants, hallucinogens and narcotic analgesics" in drivers.
The current program officers will need to follow if they suspect a motorist is high goes as follows. First, they must determine that the driver is not drunk using a breathalyzer. Then they will give the motorist a 12-step test that includes an eye test, stand on one leg (without falling) and walk a straight line, turn around and walk. Not quite as scientific as a breathalyzer, right?
But starting in December, officers will be allowed to test drivers' saliva for marijuana. Sounds good, right? Well, not really. Marijuana is actually very hard to trace in saliva, so even if someone uses cannabis, they may not show up as positive.
If an officer believes someone is high, they can then take them into the station and demand a urine or blood test. But unfortunately, those tests aren't very good either. A recent report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction found that all three forms of these tests (saliva, blood and urine) are all unreliable ways to determine if a driver is impaired after using marijuana.
So basically, Canada has rules against drugged driving, but no way to actually tell if a driver is actually impaired. That can be pretty bad consider a positive test for two nanograms of THC can lead to a $1,000 fine, and five nanograms or more can lead to 10 years in prison. All those punishments and yet authorities have no reliable way to actually tell if a driver is impaired.
Sounds like this will work out great.