Pubdate: Mon, 04 Aug 2008
Source: Hill Times, The (Ottawa, CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Hill Times Publishing Inc.
Author: Emile Therien


Bill C-2, the government's drug impairment legislation which came into
effect on July 2 cannot be realistically implemented without a solid
scientific basis and technological support, both of which are
currently lacking. The following challenges must be resolved before
this criminal legislation should be implemented.

A variety of legal and illegal substances are considered "drugs."
These include not only cannabis, but also other illicit substances as
well as prescription and over-the-counter medications that can impair
driving ability. Separate body fluid tests may be required for
different drugs. The government's bill is not restricted to cannabis.

Currently about 22,000 human drugs are available in Canada. To
identify those which can impair driving (alone or in combination with
other substances) then setting defensible criteria for each and
approving measurement tools, poses a gargantuan challenge.

For an impaired or drug-driving charge to stand in a criminal court,
making body fluid tests will be necessary. However, defensible
criminal impairment levels have not been established for any of the
potentially impairing drugs and combinations covered in the new law.

Some drugs can be detected in the body long after their effects have
worn off. For example, THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) can be
detected in the body for up to four weeks, although the impairing
effects do not last.

Once criminal impairment levels have been established for all
potentially impairing drugs, tools must be approved to measure levels
for all of them, after police must be trained to use those tools. This
could take years, because the evidence produced must meet the rigorous
demands of a criminal court.

The federal government was under pressure to do something about a
perceived increase in drug-impaired driving.

However, Bill C-2 is not the solution; at least not right now. This
law is premature and should be put on hold until the necessary
prerequisites are in place. It seems senseless, costly, and futile to
promote a law that will be challenged, and most likely struck down.
The priority must be to protect the public from drug-impaired drivers.
This can be done under current Highway Traffic Safety Act and without
criminal sanctions.

Emile Therien

Ottawa, Ont.

(The letter-writer is a past president of the Canada Safety Council.)
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