PC David Copperfield, author of the bestselling book: ‘Wasting Police Time’ writes a blog EXCLUSIVELY for our fortnightly eMagazine, S__ts & Giggles.
Here is his latest instalment from the #ThinBlueLine in Canada.
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‘With just over a month to go until marijuana is legal, it’s come as no surprise that there’s still no legal or effective way that the police can determine whether or not you’re driving while high.
The other week, the federal government announced that the Drager Drugtest 5000 would be the official device for testing suspected drug-drivers. But despite being widely used across the world in dictatorships such as the US, Australia and the UK, it’s simply not good enough for the I-know-my-rights superpower that is Canada. The device costs $6,000 and tests a swab containing a driver’s saliva for THC ( THC is the part of marijuana that causes you to crash or drive really, really well depending on who you believe). The problem is that while it tests for the presence of marijuana (or THC) in the driver’s blood, it doesn’t test whether the driver is actually impaired by the drug, and given that marijuana will be legal, the fact that it’s in someone’s blood is neither here nor there.
The manufacturers say they have recognized the problem and have set a ‘cut-off’ in Canada at 25 nanograms (of THC per millilitre of blood) as opposed to 3 or 4 in those jurisdictions where marijuana is still illegal. But that’s not going to make much difference to everyone in Canada who is going to drive while high, because nobody has the slightest idea just how many nanograms is actually going to constitute ‘drug impaired driving’ it might be 26 nano grammes or it might be 260 nanograms. Bill C-46 proposes that anyone found to have a THC content of between 2-4 nanograms will get fined $1,000 and over that gets you a criminal charge, but that’s never going to stand up to a legal challenge without some idea of what level actually gets you impaired. And as every pot head will tell you. ‘It’s different for everyone man.’
Even if that gets settled, the lawyers will tell you there’s still a number of other issues with the device. Firstly, it only works accurately between 4 and 40 degrees Celsius, so that rules out 8 months of the year when it’s winter here. And I know it’s going to be kept warm in the car, but that’s I guarantee that’s not going to be good enough. Then there’s the issues with the Canadian Charter of Human Rights: you have to wait 10 minutes before taking the test, then it takes a couple of minutes to get saliva on the swab, then the machine takes 10 minutes to analyze the swab, so you’re talking over 20 minutes of detention just to do the test! IN A FREE COUNTRY! Defence lawyers are already furiously claiming the moral high ground on this issue and there has yet to be a single real life test.
But let’s say that the device is eventually approved, it’s summer in Canada and the government is approved to breach your charter rights for 20 minutes. Even if you ‘spit over’ the legal limit, you’re still not impaired, that’s only the beginning of the process. You then get arrested and taken for ‘additional testing’ which is basically the old stand on one leg, walk a line etc. or ‘Standard Field Sobriety Tests’ as they’re called. But given the problems with the Drager Drugtest 5000, how much more accurate is testing if you can stand on one leg? Even if you’ve been on a proper course to get potheads to stand on one leg scientifically. And if you thought that getting someone to put a swab in their mouth was open to legal challenges, you’ve now got a process which is much more complex and open to hundreds more challenges.
And pretty soon you’re exactly where impaired by old-fashioned booze prosecutions are right now: it’s so complex and time-consuming that the only way out has been to decriminalize it and try and hit the drivers in the pocket, which is what already happens in the province of British Columbia and will likely happen soon in Alberta.
As with any change in the legal process, there will be winners and losers. In this case the biggest winners will be the lawyers, who are already drawing up extensions to their lakefront cottages on the promise that lots of people will be driving while impaired and will fail whatever tests the government settle on. Marijuana smokers will also win because eventually police and crown prosecutors will give up trying to punish impaired drivers. Losers? Well, basically anyone who gets killed or injured by an impaired driver. Do their rights matter? Not so much.’
Written by PC David Copperfield (pen name) – Author of ‘Wasting Police Time’ and ‘Wasting More Police Time’ – both available to buy now on Amazon.
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