September 27, 2018 9:07 am
Updated: October 4, 2018 11:59 am

Abbotsford police to acquire federally-approved roadside marijuana testing device

Some Canadian police forces are hesitant to use a federally approved roadside test for marijuana impairment, raising questions about the Liberal government's decision to give the devices the green light.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the Abbotsford Police Department would be looking to buy the Draeger 5000. Sgt. Judy Bird has now clarified that the department will be looking to acquire one being made available by the provincial government to assess its operational value.

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While many police departments across the country say they won’t be using the federally approved Draeger Drug Test 5000 device to test for drivers who are high when marijuana is legal on Oct. 17, at least one police force on B.C.’s Lower Mainland will be looking to make a decision about using it on the streets based on the testing.

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is looking to acquire the Draeger 5000 being made available by the provincial government to assess its operational value. But Sgt. Judy Bird says the force won’t be ready for roadside screening on Oct. 17.

She says the APD wants to assess its operational value.

Vancouver and Delta are not buying the device, while the municipal police departments in Port Moody, New Westminster, and West Vancouver all say they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

READ MORE: Vancouver police won’t be using federally approved marijuana testing device

Criminal defence lawyer Sarah Leamon of the Leamon Roudette Law Group says waiting is the right thing to do.

“From the perspective of a criminal defence lawyer, I think it’s the right judgment call to be making right now,” Leamon said. “There’s a lot of issues with respect to whether or not it’s an appropriate device or a device that’s going to be providing accurate and reliable readings on the roadside. If the courts ultimately rule that this device is not an appropriate tool for police officers to be using at the roadside, the police officers are going to be left with a lot of equipment that is extremely expensive and essentially useless.”

As for municipalities covered by the RCMP, a statement says there will be a strategic and limited rollout of approved drug screening equipment.

READ MORE: Edmonton police still undecided on marijuana roadside testing equipment

Here are the statements issued by several local police departments:

Abbotsford Police

“At this point, APD will be looking to acquire a Draeger 5000 and assess its operational value. We recognize it is one part of the larger piece to detect drug-impaired drivers. We have been increasing the number of SFSTs and drug recognition experts to address drug-impaired driving.”

Port Moody

“The Port Moody police do not have immediate plans to purchase the Draeger device at this moment. We currently have a number of members who are trained in standardized field sobriety testing and one trained drug recognition expert. Since the Draeger was only recently approved by the federal government, our department has not had sufficient time to evaluate how this unit will assist our officers beyond what the SFST and DRE training provides. We will be monitoring the effectiveness of the device with our other law enforcement partners as they are put into operational use and will continue to revisit this decision.”

West Vancouver

“West Vancouver police were made aware in August of federal designation of the Draeger device for roadside testing of marijuana impairment. Discussions around implementation are ongoing internally and with our policing partners and the provincial government. No final determinations have been made. Along with our partners in the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, West Vancouver police believe such testers remain an additional enforcement tool for officers but will only be part of the overall solution. Use of standard field sobriety testing (SFST) and drug recognition experts (DREs) will continue to be necessary in assessing drug-impaired driving. West Vancouver Police are continuing to invest in further training of officers to respond to the impending marijuana legalization. West Vancouver Police will evaluate and determine the potential use of drug screening devices while anticipating that science and available technology will continuously improve. Designation of the Draeger device represents a positive start, but by no means represents an end to these discussions.”

RCMP

“Public Safety Canada has made funds available to provinces and territories for the acquisition of oral fluid screening equipment. Public Safety Canada is the lead on this initiative and is co-ordinating with provincial and territorial governments to determine the appropriate number of devices within that jurisdiction … The RCMP will have a strategic, limited, roll out of approved drug screening equipment that will be deployed in consultation with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners. The use of standardized field sobriety test training and drug recognition experts will continue to be the primary enforcement tools against drug-impaired drivers. Roadside drug screening equipment will provide an additional tool to help Canadian police officers detect and investigate drug-impaired drivers, including the new blood drug concentration offences. “

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