HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Too Many One Toke Over Line, Police Say
Pubdate: Sat, 01 Feb 2003
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A9
Copyright: 2003, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Colin Freeze, Crime Reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


It's time Canada's traffic cops were equipped with some sort of
potalyzer, police say.

They believe the use of marijuana by drivers is dangerous and is
increasing, but their efforts to tackle it are hampered because they
have no roadside tools to determine how much drivers have smoked or to
suggest how much it has impaired them.

"Young people are now more likely to toke and drive than they are to
drink and drive," Deputy Chief Mike Boyd of the Toronto Police said
yesterday. Today's marijuana is far more mind-altering than it was a
generation ago, he added.

Given the changing trends, he said, it's time that police had better
laws to crack down on drug-impaired drivers, and for scientists to
develop better tools to spot them.

Marijuana passes through the body quickly, but traces linger in a
user's blood, urine, saliva, hair and sweat. Testing for it is
difficult and invasive, and there is nothing equivalent to a
breathalyzer to give an instant, credible guess as to how much is in a
driver's system.

Smoking and driving has been an issue since hippies in the sixties
first suggested marijuana be used to beat booze-detecting
breathalyzers. Though no conclusive data exists to suggest how many
drivers smoke, or how much it impairs them, the issue is heating up as
drug laws are softened.

The federal government is seriously considering decriminalizing
possession of the drug, and it already permits several hundred
severely sick people to smoke it to alleviate symptoms. Cultivation
remains illegal, but Canada already has a reputation as one of the
world's top producers of highly potent pot.

Nineteen police officers from B.C. to Halifax yesterday graduated from
a pilot program that is meant to help them identify drug-addled
drivers. Talking at Toronto Police headquarters, they said they are
increasingly pulling over stoned drivers, yet are often powerless to
stop them.

"The smell of marijuana is overpowering. But it's not enough. You have
to have physical evidence," Toronto Constable Paul Bainard said.

Even when arrests are made, convictions can be tough.

A dope-smoking driver who was caught with a joint in his hand recently
beat an impaired-driving charge in Eastern Ontario.

Rick Reimer, a former lawyer and multiple-sclerosis sufferer, is one
of fewer than 1,000 Canadians legally permitted to smoke pot.

That privilege was not thought to extend to driving. But Mr. Reimer
successfully argued that he can smoke marijuana and remain able to
debate law, recite poems, write plays -- and drive a car.

Between five and 12 per cent of all Canadian drivers may sometimes
take the wheel under the influence of marijuana, according to senators
who took a hard look at Canada's budding cannabis culture this past
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