Pubdate: Thu, 10 Dec 2015
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Dan Fumano
Page: 8
Bookmark: (Cannabis and Driving)


Suspensions Remain 'Fairly Steady'

When Const. Ian MacDonald reviewed the report from the Abbotsford 
police's roadside CounterAttack last Saturday, he initially thought 
he was missing something.

There were 157 places where drivers were stopped across B.C. during a 
CounterAttack campaign last Friday night. Police forces are seeing 
not only alcohol-impaired drivers but marijuana-impaired motorists as well.

The overnight report included four driving suspensions for drivers 
impaired by marijuana, but there were no mentions of drivers impaired 
by alcohol.

"When I first read the report, I went: 'OK, did they just list the 
drug ones? Because I don't see anything else,' " said MacDonald, a 
police spokesman.

"I assumed they must have had alcohol-based driving suspensions as 
well, and they just didn't make it into the report."

In fact, MacDonald had the full report; it just happened that all of 
that night's driving suspensions were for drivers impaired by pot, 
and there were no drunk drivers.

The marijuana-impaired drivers in Abbotsford that night received 
24-hour driving suspensions, said MacDonald, including one case he 
called "a Cheech and Chong scenario, where the windows come down and 
the billowing smoke comes out of the car."

Stoned drivers are a concern for police, MacDonald said, adding: 
"anecdotally, absolutely, we're seeing an increase of people who are 
driving under the influence of drugs."

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, said 
driving while stoned is "a major concern."

"Impaired is impaired, whether it's by drugs, by alcohol or a 
combination of the two," Murie said.

"There's this impression out there by young people, especially, that 
they're safer (driving) stoned than drunk," he said.

"If you're high on pot, your skills to drive a motor vehicle are 
deteriorated and you're at risk of being in a crash."

But cannabis activist Jodie Emery questioned that statement, and 
pointed to a study published earlier this year from the U.S. National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which found that drivers who 
use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk for a crash than 
drivers who use alcohol.

"I'm not advocating stoned driving, of course, but we don't need any 
extra penalties or enforcement," Emery said.

Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague agreed the 
perception seems to exist that driving while stoned is safer than 
driving drunk.

But, he said, it still represents a public safety risk, and a 
particular challenge for police, who have to rely on field sobriety 
tests for high drivers, instead of relying on technology like the 
breathalyzer that check for booze.

"I know they're developing machines to test for THC levels, but 
there's nothing we're using now that can do that, so it is more 
challenging for us," he said.

B.C.-based company Cannabix Technologies is working on developing a 
hand-held roadside breathalyzer to test for marijuana.

Based on statistics in recent years, Montague said, the number of 
drug-impaired driving suspensions has been "fairly steady."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom