October 12, 2018 1:25 pm
Updated: October 15, 2018 12:57 am

Over 400 Alberta RCMP officers trained in standard field sobriety tests ahead of pot’s legalization

WATCH ABOVE: How do officers test drivers they suspect are impaired? Cpl. Richard Nowak with the Alberta RCMP puts on a demonstration of the standardized field sobriety test. He said it's effective in testing people who may be impaired by alcohol and drugs.


Alberta RCMP say while cannabis legalization represents a “significant change in enforcement,” they are ready to deal with suspected drug-impaired drivers once marijuana is legal on Oct. 17.

Chief Supt. Brad Mueller stressed that impaired driving enforcement “is nothing new” for officers, but with legalization looming, the RCMP has increased its capacity in the areas of prevention and engagement, intelligence, security screening and training.

As of Friday, Mueller said 400 officers across the province have been trained in standard field sobriety tests, and there are 42 trained drug recognition experts within the force.

The goal is to have 1,200 officers trained in standard field sobriety tests by the end of 2020, the RCMP said Friday.

Watch below: Alberta RCMP Chief Supt. Brad Mueller said 400 officers will be trained in standard field sobriety tests in time for cannabis legalization on Oct. 17. He added, though, that impaired driving enforcement “is nothing new for us.”

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READ MORE: Cannabis IQ: Police chiefs doubt roadside testing device, new rules in Ontario and more

With marijuana legalization less than a week away, drug-impaired driving remains a concern for people across the country.

The federal government has approved a cannabis testing device for drivers, the Drager DrugTest 5000. 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. Several police agencies have voiced concerns about the device.

Watch below: Alberta RCMP won’t have the only approved device to test cannabis-impairment road-side by Oct. 17, the date it becomes legal. As Kent Morrison reports, they are confident in their other techniques.

The Edmonton Police Service hasn’t decided whether it will use the new roadside test to detect marijuana. Police chief Rod Knecht has said there are a lot of complications with the device and concerns about its accuracy.

“This device does not work very well in the cold for one thing,” he said in late September. “It’s bulky. It’s difficult to use.”

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

On Friday, Mueller said RCMP “K” Division has secured four of the Drager DrugTest 500 devices and officers will be trained to use them. The four machines will be spread out to members across the province. However, the machines will not be ready to use on Oct. 17.

“We won’t be in possession of them by Wednesday,” Mueller said. “We are going to look at implementing them in strategic spots and then, based on how that progresses, we may look at moving them around in different locations within the province.”

Watch below: Alberta RCMP K Division has secured four cannabis testing device for drivers, the Drager DrugTest 5000. Chief Supt. Brad Mueller said they will be spread out to officers across the province, who will be trained on how to use them.

RCMP said they will continue to rely on the tactics they’ve used for years when it comes to drug-impaired driving.

“We already are equipped with standardized field sobriety testing and drug recognition expert evaluations and we’re used to those and we are using those and I’m very confident in those tools,” Alberta RCMP Cpl. Richard Nowak said.

If an officer suspects a driver is impaired, a roadside sobriety test is done.

WATCH: With less than a week to go until cannabis is officially legal, there are some important things you need to know if you use the drug and need to be driving. Nancy Hixt reports.

If the driver fails that test, one of 42 drug recognition experts is called in to give the driver a 12-step evaluation. The expert can demand a urine or blood sample. If that sample comes back positive, charges are laid.

“A drug recognition expert can begin their evaluation three hours after the vehicle is stopped, so we can access every corner of the province within three hours.”

Watch below: From pupil size and pulse rate, to blood pressure and body temperature, Cpl. Richard Nowak with the Alberta RCMP explains what police look for in potentially impaired drivers.

READ MORE: When will you be charged for driving after smoking pot? ‘It depends on a case-by-case basis:’ Minister

RCMP said they want to stress to drivers that while using marijuana will soon be legal, driving impaired will never be legal.

Recreational marijuana use will be legal across Canada on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Watch below: Alberta RCMP say they are ready to enforce drug-impaired driving once marijuana is legal on Oct. 17. Insp. Steve Daley said the practice is not new to RCMP, as driving under the influence of drugs has been illegal for decades.

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