The Edmonton Police Service hasn’t decided whether it will use a new roadside test to detect marijuana, once consumption becomes legal on Oct. 17.
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould approved the roadside test to check for drugs, named the “Drager DrugTest 5000” in August. The saliva screening equipment will be used by police to test for the main psychoactive agent in cannabis: THC.
The equipment will be made available to police forces across the country, although it will be up to police to decide what testing equipment they want to use.
Edmonton’s Police Chief Rod Knecht said they have “very few” of the devices and officers will be testing them out. He added there are a lot of complications and there are concerns about its accuracy.
“This device does not work very well in the cold for one thing,” Knecht said Thursday. “It’s bulky. It’s difficult to use.”
“We know every time we use it we’re going to get a not guilty plea,” he said. “That’s going to plug up the court system.”
Criminal defense lawyer Dale Fedorchuk also believes we are going to see a backlog in the system, once drug-impaired driving charges are laid under the new legislation.
The accuracy of the tests and what they’re testing for will be central issues in the court system, according to Fedorchuk who believes the first criminal charges could be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court. He said there isn’t enough scientific evidence out there to prove how much THC will impair a person.
“Because the law is new it’s going to be tested,” he said. “That’s going to take a long time.
“That could create a backlog of cases waiting for the appeal decision to come down to determine what direction judges should go,” he added.
Fedorchuk added before a drug-impaired driving charge can be laid, blood or urine tests may be required.
“Even the fact there’s going to be a blood demand or a bodily substance demand may be problematic constitutionally,” he said.
Edmonton’s police chief is hoping for more options for roadside testing devices in the future. For now they will prepare with what they have.
“There will be some growing pains,” Knecht said. “We’re about as prepared as we can be for Oct. 17.”
But Knecht won’t have long to evaluate the devices. His tenure as chief comes to an end two weeks after legalization.
“I’ll be watching from the sidelines,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press