Peterborough police raise concerns about drug-impaired driving as marijuana legalization looms
As the countdown to cannabis legalization ticks down, concerns about drug-impaired driving aren’t subsiding for Peterborough police.
“It’s the same as drinking and driving. It’s the same message. You just can’t do it,” said Deputy Peterborough Police Chief Tim Farquharson.
It’s a worry the local police service has voiced since legalization cleared the last hurdle in the House of Commons; Farquharson has stated before that the technology to successfully nab drug-impaired drivers doesn’t exist.
“We’re as ready as we can be. We’ve always been trying to catch people who are high and driving,” Farquharson said.
The federal government has approved one roadside testing device, the Drager 5000.
But Peterborough police aren’t getting one.
“It’s not budgeted for, and we don’t know enough about it in terms of our inclement weather conditions,” Farquharson said.
The Drager costs about $6,000, and the printer that works with it runs an additional $1,200. Some reports indicate that using the device will cost police services about $20 per test.
Other services have expressed concern about the machine’s reliability in cold weather conditions. Farquharson says Peterborough will rely on one tried and true method — observant police officers.
“We’re going to continue with our standard field sobriety testing, which is the officer at the road. There are 22 of those in Peterborough, and four drug recognition experts.”
Testing drivers for pot is similar to what police do when they suspect a driver is impaired by alcohol. Officers trained in recognizing the signs of drug impairment bring those drivers to the police station, where a drug recognition expert takes either a blood or urine test.
But Farquharson cautions there’s still a lot that police don’t know, like how much marijuana officially makes an individual high. He said that’s something that will likely be challenged by lawyers in court.
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