Edmonton police expect to test thousands of suspected high drivers each year

A closer look at the cost of policing legalized pot in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: The price to police pot in Edmonton when it becomes legal is going to add up. Kendra Slugoski reports.

The price to police pot is going to add up.

Edmonton Police Service Supt. Al Murphy said once cannabis is legal, police will need to increase check-stops.

READ MORE: Chief says policing legal pot in Edmonton will cost upwards of $7M

He expects officers will be testing as many high drivers as they do for those impaired by alcohol — about 4,000 each year.

“An oral fluid test for cannabis or the active ingredient THC, we would know the results or level of impairment immediately.”

Murphy estimates that cost to be around $300,000 per year – that doesn’t include the equipment.

“It’s a high cost,” said Murphy, “but it’s necessary if you want a test that’s specific enough to differentiate between different drugs.”

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“I believe the public and the courts would expect law enforcement to be accurate.”

But that roadside test isn’t in the hands of police yet. EPS said companies around the world are still in the process of developing oral fluid testing devices, but the federal government has not approved one.

READ MORE: Edmonton mayor wants share of pot revenue to cover extra police costs

Last month, in conjunction with other city departments, Edmonton police requested $1.4 million to fund cannabis training and other costs for 2018. Council approved that money and EPS said it will be back in the fall to ask for more money to cover costs in 2019.

Along with new equipment, officers are getting more training to identify high drivers.

Murphy said new national guidelines now state one third of front-line officers must be trained for specialized field sobriety tests. EPS has ramped up that training to meet the deadline of 2022.

READ MORE: Canadian police look for guidance on marijuana legislation

More drug recognition experts are also needed on the force. Those officers are trained to recognize physical signs of cannabis and other drugs and can confirm the use of illicit drugs through a urine test.

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If cannabis is legalized before a roadside test is available, police will rely on drug recognition experts.

“The roadside testing device for cannabis, once that becomes available, it will just be an additional tool for police and it can maybe increase the efficiency of those investigations.”