A new bill introduced in the Manitoba legislature is giving police forces, including Saskatoon Police Service (SPS), more information to consider as they prepare for marijuana legalization.
Manitoba’s Cannabis Harm Prevention Act amends seven previous pieces of legislation, allowing police to suspend a driver’s license at the roadside for 24 hours if an officer suspects the person is high and unable to drive.
When legalized, the bill would require marijuana to be transported in a secure compartment. Ingesting marijuana in a vehicle on the road would also be banned, along with consuming it in an indoor public area.
“I think it’s important for us to watch other jurisdictions. We want to make sure we have the best practices we can as a police service,” said Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill.
Currently, police rely solely on physical indicators to determine if a person is driving high.
Weighill compared the method to checking for alcohol impairment in the 1950s before police had breathalyzers.
“The police officer would have to have somebody standing by the side of the road, standing on one leg and making their fingers point to their nose,” Weighill said.
“That’s not an effective way to enforce a law.”
With no clear timeline in place for marijuana legalization in Canada, the SPS continues to monitor how other forces test for the drug.
One such study is happening with the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), which conducts a voluntary oral fluid blind study.
“The people that are putting this together, when they find out about a new device, they will order the device and send it through to the state patrol to say ‘please start using this. Here’s how to use it,'” said Sgt. Rob Madden of the CSP.
RCMP detachments in North Battleford and Yellowknife are participating in a voluntary pilot project testing for drug-impaired drivers.
Police forces in Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and Gatineau are also involved in the initiative.